"Desolate Days" is Chellcy Reitsma's smooth crooning rendering of sonic and visual inspirations directed into reality from witnessing Valletta—a Mediterranean city, where the California-born intoner herself performed regularly—in skeleton form, post-COVID-19.
With support from the orchestration of Edward Misfud, and in tribute to the Artist Residency program in Malta—InnovAiR—the eclectic Chanteuse glides over a fantasia of tastefully spaced reverbs, fervent instrumental backgrounds, and a chorus that captivates almost immediately. It's a sonic journey that comes attached with the laborious work of rendering over 800 hand-drawn from charcoal images into a stop motion video endowment that Chellcy herself produced in her time spent away at home within the creative isolated caverns of her mind.
With a title like "Desolate Days," it's no hard to imagine a melancholic ballad with glittering and gloomy expanses that draw rainy clouds over our heads; but that's not the case with this Alt-Rock record. The sonic escapades open up with a buoyant bass and a vibraslap accented down-beat. As our singer lulls us over her soft-spoken canter, and warbling electric guitars makes their presence know, there's an unmistakable sense of evolving energy that creeps up from behind. In no time, the entire band—earthy drums, sizzling guitars, and a wholesome bass—erupts into their allotted expanses within "Desolate Day's" alt-rock panorama.
When the resounding lines, "friends near and far will sing along," beat down on our hearts before the tracks infatuating hook, it articulates like the synergistic trill between two cherubic intoners made from Chellcy's amalgamated harmonies. Here, we're led into a galloping mid-tempo theme via Chellcy's elegist-like cadence, where she reigns over the dominion of Wonder and Sound with an empyreal brilliance. The band's sound draws reminiscence to the late '70s from the earthy texturizations endowed by warm vintage sounding saturation subtly present throughout, and the sweeping guitar solos that festoon each of this song's transitions.
"Desolate Days" is a swooning sonic endeavor that benefits from our lead Chanteuse's incredible warm tonality and unperturbed expression as she chaperones us from scintillatingly smooth stanza to galloping melodic motif.
Hello Chellcy and welcome to BuzzMusic. Can you expand on some of the emotions you had to channel into the get the vocal performance you ended up with for "Desolate Days?"
Throughout this project, a mix of emotions ran through me. Considering it's a song about the Covid-19 isolation experience; as a full-time artist a whole myriad of conflicting emotions came up from desperation, disappointment, and anger at everything being canceled and there is no work available to curiosity, excitement, and uncertainty about the future and what will happen to artists and the music, arts, and culture sectors. To feelings of camaraderie, unity, and community with other artists as we all faced the murky unknown together. No matter how famous, established or how new artists are, we are all in the same boat together learning to cope with a pandemic situation that for the first time in the history of the music industry has literally brought most everything to a screeching halt. So I tried to express all of these conflicting emotions in my vocal delivery as well as our shared isolation experience through the artwork in the animation video.
What were some of the most crucial aspects of this song's orchestration did Edward help with actualizing, and did you find that this song would be the same without his support?
Initially, the first draft of the music and lyrics were written by Edward. When he shared them with me I really liked it and saw potential, so I asked him if he would like to work on it together and apply for the Valletta Cultural Agencies InnovAiR: Artist at Home artist in residency program. We applied and were pleasantly surprised when our project was accepted. At this stage, the hard work began as we only had 3 weeks to complete the entire project. I reworked the lyrics (as Ed had written it in a poem-like form) to make them singable and worked on the melody lines. Edward's strength lies in composing music more than lyrics and my strength is lyrics and melody lines, so in that way, we make a great team. Then we worked together for days reimagining some of the musical bits and had a session together with my vocal coach Julie Pomorski as well. Next, we started production with Peter Borg at Railway Studio's MT who also contributed to the musical composition in addition to producing, mixing, and mastering it. In the final mix, we have myself doing lead and backup vocals, Edward on guitar and backup vocals, Robert Spiteri on drums, and Peter Borg on bass and guitar. Edward and I worked together side by side every step of the way during the song production and mixing. The stop motion animation lyric video on the other hand was solely created and produced by myself.
Why did you choose to go with charcoal instead of the multitude of other visually artistic avenues you could have taken for the video feature's aesthetic?
I chose to do a black and white, stop motion animation video in charcoal and chalk pastel for a multitude of reasons to further support and contribute to the concept behind the song and video. For me, no other medium can convey the passage of time and the long, lonely, quiet waiting of isolation like a slow and arduous process of stop motion animation. Likewise, no other medium than the timeless and ancient use of dusty, fragile charcoals can express the ephemerality of both human existence and the pandemic isolation experiences. The starkness of black and white and shades of grey help to create a feeling of nostalgia for our previous way of life, exposing the harshness of our reality as we are faced with this life-changing pandemic and our own mortality. On purely technical and convenience levels, drawing in charcoal is a faster, more workable, more forgiving medium allowing for working more efficiently under a tight time constraint, cheaper, and a more environmentally friendly, natural medium with fewer materials used and no waste. Using charcoal allowed me to create nearly all the 800 drawings on only 4 sheets of paper. The rest was done digitally. Furthermore, the act of teaching myself how to do stop motion animation and learning a new skill while in isolation is also part of our shared quarantine experience.
If there were a few words you could express to your audience as an Epilogue to the experience of "Desolate Days," what would you say and why?
"Artists and our entire creative industry will not be silenced. We are united and we will all get through this desolate time together. We are resilient and strong as individuals and communities." Because I think the whole world needs to hear this message and believe in it.
What has been keeping you inspired in 2020?
A sense of community and camaraderie between artists, collaborations, new projects, working my bum off writing poetry and new songs and painting and drawing. The small wins and successes I've had with my last two song releases 'Cross the Line' and 'Desolate Days', which I continue to push daily. Most importantly, family and hope for our future.