Ohio and West

by Real Life Buildings

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jon & liam
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jon & liam If anything is clear after listening to Ohio and West, it’s that these cycles are not only ever-changing but part of a bigger process, one that sometimes isn’t for us to question" - varioussmallflames.co.uk/2019/05/06/real-life-buildings-ohio-and-west/ Favorite track: Racing the Sun.
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In March of 2018 I underwent a series of emergency surgeries. One of the surgeries was near my neck, and in the process one of my vocal cords was damaged. Afterwords, I couldn’t really speak above a whisper, and the doctors said it might take over a year for my voice to come back. “I hope you’re not a singer,” they joked. Though I guess I never really identified as “a singer,” it turned out yes, I was a singer.

Throughout my time playing music I’ve always struggled with what my goals are, what my relationship to writing and performing music was. This record was already largely about that; A feeling of being stuck, and of being frustrated of wanting something more of myself and of others. Some were grander musings - like what is an artist's responsibility in making music in the modern world? And some were small things, like wondering if an archetypal chord progression has been used one too many times.

During my time in the hospital, though, I made peace with it. I felt fine - even good - about music. It’s nice! It’s fun! I also felt good about stepping back from singing and performing my own songs. Writing music never felt like a choice that I made, even participating in DIY never really felt like a choice. So it’s perhaps ironic that in that moment when my ability was really being decided for me, it felt like all of a sudden I had a choice to sit down. Coupled with the wave of gratitude and appreciation for all the music my friends were making, I really did feel good about laying down the mantle of Real Life Buildings. A year after making this record, about frustration with music and with where I was, it felt like maybe I was beginning to answer some of those questions, or at least take some of my own words to heart. “It’s important to remember you don’t need this…”

Ohio and West is about music and about cycles: the movement through a song, only to be followed by another song, the ups and downs of touring, time passing, trying again. It’s a bit funny to be sharing it now, after the two biggest cycles it revolves around (the band and where I was living) have both effectively been broken. But perhaps because of that, the songs feel like they might ring true.


released March 29, 2019

Matthew Van Asselt - guitar, bass, keys/synths, vocals
Jon Appel - drums
additional vox by Z and Zoe Grant
Lead Guitar on 'racing the sun' by Griffin Irvine
Recorded by Kyle Gilbride
Mixed + Mastered by Mike Ditrio
Additional Guitars by Mike and Kyle


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Real Life Buildings New York, New York

we are a band and there are some people in the band and we like to play music.

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Track Name: Road Block
it was a whirlwind
it was a slow and steady freeze
it passed in seconds
it felt like days it felt like weeks
I should get up, the sun is comin through the leaves
or should I -

go back to sleep
it seemed like maybe i was finally following through

but it takes a lifetime
or i guess it takes not feeling like you need a single moment or a single email to tell you you’ve done enough or you did it right or you don’t have to try any more

it’s always sometime down the road
or a little further down the block
and if the road is blocked or if the block is a cul-de-sac and so you turn back
drive down parkways or highways to park your car in driveways and fall asleep in beds
well i guess its a two way street

it was a false start
the sun came out then it snowed again
Track Name: Backwards Glance
there was something that you said to me
in the space between the thaw and the freeze
about how it’s some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy
the way we will the cycle forward for the promise of reprieve

the summer left without a backwards glance
barely a sigh to warn us of the cold
i hoped it might stick around to see what happened next -
to confirm suspicions; to watch winter unfold

but by then the leaves had already fallen
not yet autumn but they still fall all the same
not turned yellow not turned orange not turned red but just dried up:
a pale and feeble brown already here before the fall came

but I can’t leave quite as easily
my bags aren’t packet yet,
there’s somewhere i’ve got to be tomorrow, and also the day after that
and to be honest i’m looking forward to the coming cold.

you said this city is full of amnesiacs
we spend the winter waiting for the snow to melt away
not remembering the heavy air, thick and wet, uncompromising heat
so we spend the summer waiting for the cold.

maybe that’s true
but maybe there’s another reason you still live here too
but bound by feet, or bound by lease
or just bound to stick around even without a binding agent
I can only follow the rotation of the days
not pivot on the axis like the geese above my head
they inscribe arrows into the greying sky but we don’t know enough to follow
Track Name: A Mark on the Wall
there is a chorus: there is a theme I keep coming back to
there is a passing of time, there is a release date
there is a solstice, there is a mark on the wall for how tall you were when you were twelve years old and at your sister’s friend’s house
and there’s another one for 22 in a greenpoint apartment probably painted over but maybe you haven’t grown too much since then

there is a chorus
there is a place where somehow everything comes together - everybody knows just what to say
meaning is muffled in an attempt at universality but its a way in -

a way to feel a part of something that could be bigger
it just might be bigger - yeah you really want to feel like its bigger

but in the end it still seems like its prescribed randomly
a critical mass is more like undiscerning and i’m left ambivalent

the words are meaningless if you read between the lines
a negative space even if you squint your eyes

and the sun is full now
the sun is high up in the sky
i’ve gotten older
feels like i’m running out of time and maybe that’s where some of this resentment lies
Track Name: Bitter
the line between being bitter and being critical is a shaky one
drawn in pencil by a non-dominant hand
and it loops back on itself (often more like a venn-diagram)
and i’ve been known to wander across without even seeing the line at all

it feels more and more like there's nothing here for us anymore
sometimes i worry i forgot how to have fun
but when viability is key maybe my race is run

so rather everything here is no longer for us
though i guess in the end i’m just another voice in the chorus

“i want something else”

but maybe this is the most that i should be asking for
maybe these are the chords that will keep me busy
i don’t need anything more than the vi - V - IV

but if I can argue a complaint with reason and point to sufficient evidence do i get a pass on bitterness?

it could be meaningless
or maybe meaning is derived in this way-
maybe we can decide
and that in and of itself is something to celebrate

i can’t ever tell if its trite or if its perfection
if we’ve reached the perfect form then there’s no need to stray from these chords
the words are arbitrary as long as they can be repeated
- yeah feeling good can be easy
if you let yourself
if you let yourself feel good
Track Name: Racing the Sun
Just like like racing the sun to the horizon
speeding just to hit the water first
you said productivity and happiness mean two different things
and sure theres a relationship
but it's important to remember
you don’t need this
just making the drive is a reason in itself
it is a reason
you can let yourself go sometimes
and you can put all the pressure out of your mind
you can remember how to enjoy yourself
and you can sprint across the sand into the water as the sun also makes the dive
Track Name: The Setting
it starts with a setting of the scene
some small moment that lingered long enough
or came back a second time
the white noise you don’t notice until it's gone
(and now its gone)
a garage door closes -
seen from the highway as we speed by
two windows shutting at exactly the same time
but the road still stretches out ahead
a trite metaphor spied from behind the wheel
a reference to something personal in vague enough terms
It’s meaning can be assigned as is necessary

then it begins to rain
starts out as just a drizzle the wipers just make it worse
they spread the water into a thin veil and there’s another added layer of obscurity

or it begins to snow
it begins to snow hard
and you have to slow down
it begins to snow
three lanes become one
and the landscape fades outside of the window
your arms are tense and your heart is pounding and you’re bound together now

or there’s no significant weather
or is the weather insignificant
There was enough coffee in me to still be useful
so road finally ended or at least we got out of the car
is it significant whether or not we both moved here by accident
we act like we need a reason to leave
the car we passed in the garage just getting home after work somewhere out past kansas city
it experiences inertia just the same as my own car passing on the highway
Track Name: 168
The moon was full but i couldn’t see it
so i settled for the orange sky
opened the door and wondered why
I didn’t leave the house all day
and how the sky can look that way
if i’m happy or just comfortable
if i’m too scared to quit my job

they say the color in the sky is from pollution
they say that about the tap water too

and the uhaul is double parked outside
but the kids on the block still duck behind
a car each time a cop drives by
and the c train always runs on time and it’s brand new
with bright fluorescent lights that jolt me quickly awake
and there’s no one on the intercom singing c to one six eight

just a robot’s voice with dings and beeps to signify that we’re still moving forward
it signifies that we’re still making progress

then the train rolls back around
and i walk home with my head down
to see the uhaul pull away
but i’m not even here to stay

i can take the train heading in either direction
and it still takes me right to the same place
it still gets me to work on time (5 minutes late)
Track Name: An Expectation
there is a chorus
there is a theme i keep coming back to
there is a year since i left
there is a line in the basement that the water rose up to
there is an expectation set by everyone around you
there is a point when you should clarify your doing what you want
and not just what you think you want or
what you think have to do because of what you expect to happen
or what you thought you might have wanted when you left it’s been a year it’s been two years
oh how the time does fly
and maybe i haven’t grown too much since then
Track Name: Irony
there can be no more irony
but there still must be humor
these are terrifying times
and these are unfulfilling lines
we can re write and retry
invent new synonyms
but there is nothing more to add
ear buried in the ground and so the conversation walked away
there is nothing new to say

maybe i should have held out for the two birds
the one in my hand is gonna scratch its way free this isn’t where it wants to be
i shouldn’t be offended but it just feels like it lied to me
maybe i should have held out for the two birds
i didn’t realize it but they were sitting right next to me
i should have settled for just two chords
restricted my rambling in favor of a melody

it made my stomach churn but hey you live and you learn
it’s only ignorance; there’s no bliss if you can’t be reflexive
pacing in the kitchen when all I want is sleep
because I can’t bear the thought of someone not sympathizing with me

tread lightly
speak softly
don’t carry a stick
leave the door open
keep the window shut

so in my bedroom i will read the paper
and i will click the links and try to think before i speak or walk before i talk

maybe i should have held out for the two birds
i didn’t realize it but they were sitting right next to me
i should have settled for just two chords
restricted my rambling in favor of a melody
Track Name: A Different End
if you build it they will come
but if you just build a handful of disparate foundations
its harder to recognize it as a destination
but if you give it enough time who knows what could happen

i could move to the woods and never go online
or i could stay in new york and never have the time
or i could find some way to balance everything that’s on my mind

because just being restless isn’t quite enough, there must be some kind of reckoning

repose from a vicious cycle or some way to rise above
to melt the snow without causing the floods

so we get ready to do it all again
we put on clean clothes, practice a smile and begin
and hope a differing approach can yield a different end

and if the thing that people want from you is not the thing that you want to make
if thats the thing that you give them maybe it doesn’t make you dishonest
maybe it makes you generous
or maybe it just makes you complain
or maybe if you don’t think about it it will all fall into place

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