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Ep 40: David Arnold (NEON IMPOSTER)

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

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Ep 40: David Arnold [NEON IMPOSTER]
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Trevor: [00:00:00] So many kids are going to Disney World. I was like, Hey, Gemma, are any of your friends doing anything for Fall Break? She's like, yeah, they're all going to Disney World. I'm like, really? And she's like, no, seriously. Basically all of them are going to Disney World. And I was like, well, we might go to Red River Gorge.

If you're lucky. Yeah. You've been

David: to Red River Gorge? Yes, I have been. I have been to Red River Gorge. I had, I actually Rented a cabin out there because when I'm on deadline for a book, , And also this was like coming out of lockdown and so everybody was feeling kind of pent up. So anyway I got a cabin out in the gorge for like three or four days like it was a tiny house with like one of Those garages you raise up and you're just kind of in the woods.

Trevor: My parents are losing their minds slowly one of the specific ways in which their madness is manifest is they bought a little tiny farmhouse right in the middle of Amish country. And I know what you're thinking. Oh, they must be Amish. They are not. I was thinking our [00:01:00] non Amish culture and putting it smack dab in the middle of this. And so they've restored this little farmhouse and they've got, you know, some acres out there. And like, who's going to buy this? A non Amish person, because there's electricity, right?

They can't, like, Amish people, it's unavailable to them. Who is going to use this? And so there are like, well, people like Dave, like, who need, like, writer's retreats, would come here and, like, have the, you know, they'll have, like, modern conveniences, but they'll be sort of remote, and they can, you know, get their deadlines met, so.

So is, so is that, is there a big market for Rider retreats? Rider

David: retreat hostels? Really? Yeah. Okay. I mean, big market. I don't know, but I, I mean, yes, I have, I have friends who, who do that pretty regularly.

I don't, it's not a regular thing for me. This was a, yeah. Special case. Cause you

Trevor: were ready to blow it. I was close to, yeah, but no, it was great. Well, they'll be encouraged to know that, that they be able to cash in on the... Yeah. So is it people who are really bad at managing deadlines that tend to go out and

David: rent these things?

No, and in fact, I mean, I would say most of, most of the people who I know [00:02:00] who do these retreats do them regularly. It's like part of their... Writing their process process. Yeah,

Trevor: and that's revolving requires them to go and leave their families for a while Yeah, I'm sure you need to start making that into your process.

Yeah That's funny So this is a very exciting special episode I would say of the podcast because part of the reason why we started the podcast was because you have written a book and I would say central to that book is music. And so we said, you know, let's start creating some of the songs. And this is our opportunity , with the book coming out next week, to talk about the process, , the book, the songs and how they all fit

David: together.

Yeah. And I think this comes out the day that the book comes out soon. So, by the time people are listening to this, the book will be, the book is out today. It's out

Trevor: today. That's right. The book is called, I Loved You in Another Life. It is. You can buy it on, what's the best place to buy it from your perspective?

David: So the, the quick answer is, I'm, I'm thrilled for you to buy it wherever you want to buy it. You can [00:03:00] buy it anywhere you want to buy it. The, the slightly longer answer is, of course, it's, I mean, there are a lot of really great indie bookstores , in the country and, and I always love it when you can support an indie bookstore.

A lot of people. I don't know or a lot of people would say, well, I don't have an Indie in my area. Yeah. And fair enough. But there is a website called bookshop. org and it essentially has gathered together all of the Indies in the country. And so when you buy from bookshop. org, you are buying from an independent bookshop.

I see. Yeah, you might not even know it. And they, they, you can select which bookstore you want to buy it from, or if you don't select any, they'll just randomly pick one and then the Indy will ship it to you. So interesting. Yeah.

Trevor: Well, that's cool. Well, so check it out there. So I've never written a book and the prospect of doing so seems daunting. How do you, like, where did this book start? Like, where do you go from this book and not existing? At all. Yeah. To it existing in some sense, ,

David: So this is my fifth book and each one has come to me in a completely different way. Sometimes they come in the form of a question or a person or a [00:04:00] Character or a plot point and in this case, it was, I actually, I have a file where like anytime I have an idea, I just kind of like throw the idea in the file and I don't really, and I don't think about it until one day something clicks.

And so this book really started the first idea was that I had thought about two strangers who are hearing the same song out of thin air. And I didn't know what that. What that, you know, meant or what kind of story that would be or who these people were. And so that just sat on my computer for years.

And then my kid when he was six was obsessed with the movie ET for about five months and every Tuesday we have daddy night where we watch a movie and usually we order pizza or I'll cook something. And for about five months, every Tuesday night we watched ET. And so when you watch the same movie.

Once a week Right. For five months you start picking up on things that you hadn't before. Was he,

Trevor: were you asking like, what movie you're gonna watch tonight? And he was choosing E. T. every single time? Yes, every time. Okay, [00:05:00]

David: was part of you like, oh. Well, so it's my favorite movie of all time. Oh, really? I think it's the, I think it is the most perfect movie. It scratches every itch for me. Hmm. And So I was, I was here for it. I kind of loved that he loved it that much, you know, and of course You know, it's not like, it, it does get a little boring I suppose watching that, watching any movie that many times in a row, but but no, I mean I, so at the, you know Spoiler, spoiler.

Oh boy, here we go, okay. If you haven't seen ET by now You really should just stop listening to this and go watch ET. Stop watching,

Trevor: just listen to this. Yeah, go watch ET Okay, and pick it up right

David: back here And we're back. So yeah, I mean the movie and I mean the whole movie is is E. T. trying to get home He's trying to get home to his family and Elliot is this ten year old kid who helps him on that Process of getting his family to come get him from Earth and in the end they do and E.T. His family comes back he gets E. T. E. T. Sales off into the night sky, and it's, you know, a very happy ending for E. T. [00:06:00] But it is also, I mean, you cry a lot. It's an emotional departure. It's an emotional goodbye between Elliot and E. T. But what really occurred to me at one point, I was like, This kid's dad is out of the picture. His mom, bless her, she's trying her best. Yeah. His older brother's kind of a jerk. Penis breath. Right, right. Right. And then Drew Barrymore is like four and she's super adorable, but it's not like she's there for Elliot in the way that he would need. Yeah. And he doesn't really have anybody. E. T. was like his family, or his person, really.

And so yeah. It just, it became this thing that, for me, that was just like, but what happens to Elliot? And so, I had this thought that like, well, it was like a tagline that kind of... popped in my head, which was . E. T. phones home, E. T. goes home. Now Elliott is all alone. And so I wanted to write a book that was set in that world, like seven years later, Elliott's a teenager. He's really misses his friend. He's trying to call him. He wants him. He wants to see him again. He at this point, Gertie the Drew Barrymore character would be, you know, quite a bit older.[00:07:00]

What does Michael, his older brother look like? And is his dad back in the picture? Yeah. I felt like there were all of these things.

And so. I emailed my agent, because it's IP, I mean, that's not my, that's not, I can't just write an ET story, right? So I emailed my, I, I typed up a little paragraph just saying, here, you know, here are my ideas and I sent it to my agent and he was like, well, let's, let's forward this to the film team and see. And I was like, okay. So then the next day, we emailed the like my there's a film agency that we work with and the film agent was like well Let me ask Steven and I was like what as in Steven Spielberg. She's like, yeah Yeah, and so then like two days later I got an email that That was like I'm so sorry, but Steven said no and it was like Party time in our house because I asked a question and Steven Spielberg said no it was just like I didn't care, it wasn't like a fully baked idea, and I didn't, I didn't really have high hopes that it would work, but I just couldn't believe that, yeah, he rejected you, he got rejected by V. He said no to me, that's right, [00:08:00] yeah.

So what happened was then it started, I started realizing that really the story wasn't in the E. T. universe. It was, but it was about the bond of two people who love E. T. Yeah. Me and my kid, and we both come together every week for five months to watch this movie. Yeah. And that felt very special and like something I wanted to explore. And so... long winded way of saying really the turning point for when I was like, I need to write this book was the idea of an older brother and, and a younger brother who was, who was, that relationship is kind of based on me and my kid and our mutual love of a movie.

And that, and then I started thinking about, okay, well, maybe this other idea of the two people who are hearing songs out of thin air, you know, we've talked a lot on this podcast about our music backgrounds and I've always thought it'd be cool to like tie that into a book someday. And so. Yeah, that's kind of when, I mean, the story is about these two strangers, Evan and Shosh, who start hearing songs, their, their lives are kind of falling apart in different ways.

And they start hearing this music out of thin air and[00:09:00] and they don't know each other and kind of for the first half of the book, they don't even interact with each other. Yeah. And then the songs though start to they start to recognize that some of the lyrics are geographically specific And so they follow the songs and the songs kind of lead them to each other.


Trevor: there's something interesting about when you're in a place in your life and maybe things aren't going well or Or you just had a shit day or whatever and like just hearing the song just sort of is transformative and can be really powerful.

David: So yeah, for sure. And for them, they start, they, because they're in sort of more traumatic periods of life, they, they kind of think, you know, cause they, we hear the songs before they, when they hear them, they assume it's like from a radio, like in a house somewhere, like some on somebody's phone, but over time they're like, wait, I keep hearing this song and like, it's not coming from anywhere.

So then they kind of tie that in with the trauma. Like, am I losing my mind? Yeah. , but yeah, early on, I was like, I I would love to write these songs. So I was able to write the songs that they hear in the book [00:10:00] as I was writing the book. And so the lyrics kind of constantly were changing because I needed them to be different in the book. They kind of took shape together.

Trevor: Obviously we, you've done music before. We've talked about that a lot on podcasts. You took this. Hard turn into writing books and then what was it like to sort of return to writing songs? Was that a comfortable thing?

Was there was there some muscle memory there? Was it like was it challenging? I mean, I know you've written a ton of songs in your life, but you hadn't done it for quite some time

David: Yeah I haven't done in a long time and this was the first time that I felt like I was approaching it As a hobbyist, you know, like when we were in Nashville doing this, it was very, it was a professional, if not professional, it was the pursuit.

I was a professional pursuit. I really was, you know, and so this was like the stakes were low. It was just a, it was a really, it was fun because I was creating this thing that was going to be like, it felt like a multimedia. Well, it was a multimedia project and it just, yeah, it was, it was fun for that reason.

And yeah, there was some muscle memory, but also, I mean, it really, honestly, and this is[00:11:00] you know, I think our history years in mind played such a big part in me feeling comfortable recording again. And, you know, this is a different space than we had when we made music in our various bands together.

Right. It felt like almost the exact same thing. It was, you know, Trevor and Dave recording music. So

Trevor: it was cool. Well, let's listen to one. Yeah. Yeah. So you want to set up one of the songs you want to listen to?

David: Yeah. So the first song would be the Northern Shores. Northern Shores. Which actually is a reworked version of a song that I wrote in my early days in Nashville that was a lot more, I can't remember, I think it was called Sad Town, maybe?

I think so. And I always kind of enjoyed parts of it, but was never very happy with it overall. And so this was when I I realized that I should slow it down and it's more of a finger picked kind of acoustic song. Yeah, and and then yeah, of course, I just rewrote the lyrics entirely to go along with the book.

So this is a song You know, they kind of, all three songs kind of come, they dip in [00:12:00] and out of the book. So it's hard for me to say this song takes place at this part of the book. But one particular line that, that is important is when they talk from the Seine to the sea. Your voice is in me and it's throughout the book, there are these little sort of vignette short stories of various people across the world and across time that are falling in love in supernatural ways.

And you start to wonder if maybe these are just the same two souls falling in love over and over again. And the Evan and Shosh, it's almost like if you're in an art gallery and you're standing right up close to one painting and so you see all the detail of Everything in this painting and all of the various ways that things tie to other things and and then you step back and you realize Oh, this painting is just one of many and I don't know all the details of all these other paintings But put into context it now makes this one painting a All the more beautiful.

Yeah, and so that's kind of what I was going for with these vignette short stories. You get Three or four pages of a quick story Kind of interspersed [00:13:00] throughout the book and then Evan and Shosh is the painting that we're right up next to you And hopefully it makes their story, you know, all the richer for it, so one of the souls it takes place in Paris in the 1800s. And so there are some French lyrics in, in this song. Oh, right. Awesome.

Trevor: This is Northern Shores by Neon Impostor. [SONG]

So people may make the connection the moniker that you use to release music is Neon Imposter, which of course. Played well, not I shouldn't say of course, but I gather, you know plays a prominent role in the actual book.

David: You know writing a book just takes a really long time. I've heard which is part. Yeah It's one of the things I actually really like about it though is that it's just The process is you really dive in for a period of years.

Trevor: Yeah, if writing a book took like five minutes Everybody would yeah,

David: right and I mean I average like two two between two and three years is how long it takes generally And so early on when I was like, okay I think I want to write the songs that the two [00:14:00] characters are hearing in the book I also felt like I didn't want, like, I would write the songs, I would love to record the songs, but I didn't want my recordings to be the versions that my characters were hearing.

So and well, and also the songs that they're hearing are, this very ethereal female vocal, vocalist. I based that on an artist named Juliana Barwick. I just adore her music, it's so great. She almost uses her vocals like a violin or something, like it's a classical instrument. And so that's kind of the description of the songs that the two characters hear throughout the book, it's like that.

And it's the songs that I wrote, but it's, you know, it would be like if Juliana Barwick said it. I did kind of have this idea that there would be a scene and I don't want to give spoilers, but that there would be a scene in the book where suddenly a, a, a person that's not one of the main characters and that's not Julianna Barwick is, is playing those songs.

And so I thought maybe that character should have [00:15:00] an, like a name. And I remember texting with you trying to think of this like a band, I don't remember how I landed on Neon Impostor But at some point I landed on that and then I started thinking well It'd be cool if by the time the book comes out, you know Because I wanted to release those three songs as this character Neon Impostor in the book The three songs that I'd written for the book wanted to release them with the book So it could be cool if there was already like a body of work right online.

Yeah By this character, Neon Imposter. Adds to the realism, really. Yeah, it's, yeah. You know, it also kind of coincided with a time where I, I was thinking about all of this music that I'd spent a decade recording. But it was, you know, we recorded all that stuff before the age of streaming. Bandcamp was around.

I mean, you know, obviously they're really... I mean, Spotify was around, but it wasn't

it is today. Yeah, people didn't just stream music regularly. It was... So I started thinking, well, I could start like re releasing all of that music now. And this was [00:16:00] like three years ago. Kind of gradually roll out all these songs over the course of the next three years so that by the time the book comes out and the record comes out, there will already be this body of work by Neon Impostor.

And so, yeah, I started releasing music as Neon Impostor, I want to say three years ago. But yeah, that's kind of, that's kind of where the, the name Neon Impostor came from and how it ties into the book. And I very much plan to, I mean, we're, we're working on some songs now and I'm going to continue releasing music as Neon Impostor, which is kind of cool, but, but it all, yeah, it all kind of was came together because of this

Trevor: So. I like it when works of fiction, like, there are objects or characters or entities from those worlds in the real world. Yeah. Like what someone references a website or something, like it actually exists in the real world. I know

David: this is true of you because I have an my third book is called The Strange Fascinations of No Hypnotic, and there's a, an email. Address in that book, which I did in fact, it's just a gmail account So I did when I was writing [00:17:00] it I did get on gmail and like lock it down But it's not like I checked it regularly, right? At some point I got a text from you that was I don't remember what you said, but it was something like, you should check your email.

And you emailed me on that account. I was


Trevor: testing it. Yeah. I love to test things. I like to pressure test things. Well, let's listen to another one of these songs.

David: Yeah, so we'll do Division Street next. I mean, I feel like that was.

I think that was probably the first one that I started working on, and it's, I think it's probably also the one that's referenced the most throughout the book. Evan and Shosha are the main characters, but Evan, Evan's encounter with that song I think probably plays a little bit more of a role in the actual So, yeah, Division Street, it's a, it's an actual street in the book where things kind of come, come together, start to come together for Evan that, oh, this song that I'm hearing is referencing actual places in my life.

Yeah. And it's kind of a turning point in the book for him to, to stop trying to ignore the songs, but to actually be like, okay, why am I hearing them and, and what do they mean? And then he [00:18:00] starts kind of following them. So.

Trevor: Awesome. This is Division Street by Neon Impostor. [SONG]

Obviously you're releasing a book, I imagine that involves, you know, some, like, Promotional efforts and like what will you do to sort of promote the work other than being on fabulous podcasts?

Yeah, right.

David: i'm doing a launch here in lexington on well by the times on today On today if you are in lexington today, on tuesday, october 10th i'm speaking with my friend silas house at our Fabulous local independent bookstore, Joseph Beth.

I will be in Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books on October 21st, and then I am hitting the road with my friend David Levithan, The David's tour. It is the David's tour. Yeah. who has a new book coming out called Ryan and Avery, which is fantastic and you should all buy it. It's actually out, yeah, it's out now as well. So we're gonna be going to Louisville, we'll be at Carmichael's on the 22nd, which another of October.

22nd of October, that's right another great independent bookstore. And then we're going to Indianapolis [00:19:00] area it's Greenwood, Indiana, at the Barnes and Noble there. I'll be there with David on the 23rd, and then on the 24th we'll be in St.

Louis at Left Bank Books. And very much looking forward to those. And then I've got a festival in Cincinnati on November 18th called Books by the

Trevor: Banks. It's like a rock and roll tour, really. A little bit, yeah. Do authors get up to shenanigans and tear up hotel rooms and stuff around on the road?

David: Not really. Not really. We, I mean. Just drink warm cups of tea. We drink. No, there's a lot of like lobby hangouts. Oh, I see. Yeah. But, yeah.

Trevor: Well, hopefully people can catch you on some of those live dates. I know those are cool events. And of course, pick up your copy of I Loved You in Another Life at anywhere. Anywhere. Or, that

David: website, which is called... Yeah, if you'd like to support an independent bookstore and you don't have one in your area, you can go to bookshop. org. And it's super easy. Super

Trevor: easy. Not difficult. Those days are gone. That's true. Remember when it was very hard to buy books?

David: Barely, because those days are just gone. Thank you, Gutenberg. Yeah.

Trevor: Okay the last song, the third song I should say. [00:20:00] Yes. Of the three in the book.

David: It's called Lost Causes and Concerns, and it plays an important role because it's a pivotal scene near the end where XoX is finally putting things together, and we kind of get the lyrics in full, and I believe this song plays right before she and Evan meet for the first time and it's kind of this echoey piano song that I had.

A lot of fun recording with you. Yeah,

Trevor: it was a good one. It was the most challenging one to, I think it has the most distinctive sort of voice or character to the song. Yes. And so I think we spent some time chasing it down. Yeah. In a way where the others are a little bit more like, okay,

David: let's start recording. Yeah, the other two were a little bit more like naturally falling in line with what we do or with what I do anyway. And this one was like, like you said, it was a sound we were going for. So it did take some, some work finding that. Yeah.

Trevor: This is Lost Causes and Concerns by Neon Impostor. [SONG]


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