WORDS AND PHOTO BY ALEX DA SILVA
It was all very cute.
The two-story walk up to Logan Marshall and his longtime partner Semantha Norris’ bungalow style apartment in East Los Angeles - cute. The suggestion and eventual execution of our photo shoot in his medium-sized backyard balcony overlooking a balmy Echo Park on a Sunday afternoon— cute (the barber none other than Sem herself? Also cute). The photo-bombing skillset of their tiny rescued black cat Beauregard, giving a little skin here and there? You guessed it — provocative and unsettling — and ultimately left me the same feeling as before which was, this is all so damn cute.
It would be hard to imagine Logan using the term cute to describe his exterior surroundings, let alone the current environment of which he’s decided to, “finally”, release a formal solo offering of music. However, speaking by phone in late January during his UberEats route, a job he took after 7 years of disillusioning work in the live music industry, this is far from his first rodeo. “I never stopped making things,” he said. He takes one of his hearty laughs and almost reveling at his own history adds: “It just got to a point, like, why am I not releasing these things?”
In November, Logan (who performs as “Logsie”) allowed the magazine to record him playing tunes from his upcoming EP “Traffic”; his first live rendition of the ensuing album and its songs. In front of four other close friends, the concert lasted maybe 25 minutes (including applause) as the songs on the album typically didn’t reach past the two and a half minute mark. A method he calls “little refrains” that hints at his general approach for the album (after each tune he would remark “…another short one” until it was quite clear they were all indeed…short ones). Hearing the 29-year-old Marshall talk about his creative process, one realizes quickly his clear aversion to stuff. “I like constraints,” he said after detailing the minimal amount of gear he forced himself to use for recording. Despite his accomplished music technology education both as a student at NYU’s Clive Davis School of Recorded Music and a talent buyer for New York and LA venue staples like Webster Hall and Fais Do-Do, Marshall finds his niche in the space between. “I can’t get into an emotional place with a piece that I’m playing if I don’t space things out — I like leaving that moment — it comes from [my love] for ambient music, [I take notes from that].”
Space, constraints, refrain — all normal sounding artistically descriptive words until one considers the subtext. Yes, that subtext. The reason why you’re probably reading this in your living room and not on a crowded subway platform, and the other reason why you haven’t talked “politics” with “that” friend in awhile. Hardly a time to put out music that values sparseness when it seems as though our entire beings have been saturated with some of the most complex circumstances. A theme kept emerging during our phone conversation — why now? What was the catalyst to begin this…now? How were you inspired to write and release a solo album now? And then to say your inspiration was fucking…sparseness? It was as if Marshall had made this album in an alternate universe.
However, the thing about Logan is his unique ability to find.
His ability to find space in his music, to discover uniqueness in the equipment in front of him, and frankly to see beauty in seemingly overwhelming darkness. Logan cites the late economist and NYU professor Randy Martin as part of this inspiration. Martin championed the idea of derivatives transcending the spectrum of economics to inform our social behaviors. The Oxnard-born Marshall, somewhat unsurprisingly uses the activity of surfing to explain this. He infers a chaotic scene of waves, the lone surfer fighting their way to the lip, then standing amidst their newly found space atop the wave. It’s the idea that “something happens out of the most precarious situations, [that] beautiful things happen out of precarity.” He utilizes this idea as an inspiration for the album’s title, Traffic. “Driving around LA is going to be a fucking slog,” he says. However, he still “see[s] these beautiful, little strange moments that prop out of that mangled, dumb madness.”
One can hear that inspiration in his music. In mid-January, Logan released the first single from the record, another short one titled “Tinker”. Clocking in at just under two minutes, and following his notion of space, you don’t actually hear Logan’s voice until around the 35 second mark. The preceding time builds anticipation in a loop reminiscent of the heady days of the early 2000s indie scene and a California-tinged summer day. He’s stated he intends to release each song with accompanying videography of which he hopes to install on TV stands throughout Los Angeles.
The short tunes, the space, the videos — you get a sense after meeting with Logan that it is just so uniquely, him. As in you listen to the music and you figure nobody else can make, whatever it is, he’s making. “Logs is the rarest type there is,” his former bandmate and Monterrey based artist Sam Katz says. “Doesn’t matter the genre, it’s always so uniquely him. If Guitar Center still existed I’d wager I could walk into one blindfolded and be able to pick Logan out no problem.” Guitar Center still exists, but Sam’s point rings so true. Logan has an unfailingly, ever-unique ability to make music that best identifies as Logan’s. On the other token, I asked some of the friends at his mini-show in November what type of music they expected to hear from Marshall. Jenna Maranga, a friend he grew up with and singer songwriter based in LA, remarked in that unmistakable old friend tone, “…Oh I never know what’s gonna come out of Logan’s mouth.” Truth be told when I heard the samples of the tunes he aimed to play, and then he showed up with a 4-string nylon guitar, I too wondered how he was going to replicate what I heard. Then he started to play, and I realized I should stop worrying about how Logan is going to play Logan’s music. He’s the only one that can do it.
As our conversations over the past few months wound down, it was humorous to reflect on how difficult it was to get Logan to talk about the “big picture” of it all. What was the overarching, high-brow, statement he wanted to make with all of this art? In an artistic climate that awards the loud flag bearers of the new or the relevant, where did this late twenties, ambient-music head, want to plant his flag? “I don’t like talking about the overarching intent behind the work,” he responds. “It can just come out as pretentious babble a lot.” I tried to propose that explaining what one cares about is not always fodder for pretension. However, his self-awareness as a white male creating art, his view of that demographic’s “proclivity to be pretentious a**holes”, and his “aw shucks” humility all warped into a big non-answer for quite awhile. Though after some more prodding he did offer this: “…everything sort of boils down to taking out, like, beautiful moments in time out of everything else that is precarious, crazy, and confusing.”
Thus, my initial thought of surmising that Logan was creating despite the times was not accurate. He wasn’t avoiding the complexities in front of him and all of us. Logan created this unique, haunting, beautiful EP as a result of those complexities, then he just chose what he wanted to remember.