Oakland based singer-songwriter Mark Allen-Piccolo has released the latest single “Yer Goin Up” ahead of his sophomore album coming May 1st. The track opens with a familiar twangy surf-rock charm, perfect for these summery, stir-crazy days where a dose of positivity is certainly welcomed. As the song progresses, you’re slowly introduced to the artist’s more unconventional music angle, steeping you into a brew of perfectly-measured weirdness, in part inspired by Prince. Mark shares that in addition to applying some similar production and techniques and styles, the lyrics also allude to Prince’s somewhat recent passing:
Yer goin up is my own personal homage to Prince. The music doesn’t sound like Prince AT ALL, but there are certain production techniques of his that inspired my own production of this song. For example, the varisped vocals, the programmed drum samples mixed in with the live kit, and the pitch modulated synthesizers.
The lyrics are also about Prince. I am a huge fan of his music and I was affected by his passing in 2016. “Got a seat on the flight man, yer goin up. You gave us you’re all man, you done enough” – This lyric is like saying, you gave us all this beautiful music, you did enough, you can rest now. The song is about boarding a flight and leaving your life behind. There is allusion to drug use and coping with pain. I, of course, don’t know Prince at all, but from what I’ve read he struggled with addiction to pain killers. All the while, he continued performing—jumping around on stage, dancing, singing, making people feel good. For a long time, I thought of Prince as just this kind freaky soul who made funky new-wave hits, but I later read—in interviews—that his music is embedded with religious themes. I thought a song like “I Would Die For You,” was a love song to his lover, but it’s actually religious—or perhaps it’s both. My song “Yer goin up,” pays some tribute to that iconography. The chorus uses the phrase “bleed me better than love” which has a religious aspect to it, and also captures intoxication.
With this song, I wanted to capture the feeling of flight, of taking off in a plane, of lifting off the ground—perhaps never to land again. Taking off, you’d be going down the runway extremely fast. There’s a sense of excitement as you first lift off the ground—your heart kind of falls into your gut. And finally, you float above the clouds, almost peacefully. It’s really quite a unique sensation. There is adrenaline and a maybe a bit of panic. Like, what am I doing here! “Turn this crazy bird around!” So much of this album is very controlled and I wanted to have one song where I could let loose and let the plane crash.
Interestingly this song was the last song I added to the album. I wasn’t sure about whether or not it fit on the album. At a certain point, the album was made up of mostly softer songs, and I felt this song might be the odd-one-out. Once I added “Under the Cherry Tree” and “Favorite Conspiracy”–songs that are weird in their own right–I felt like it actually fit-in perfectly. Another interesting tid-bit is that I recorded this song in the same session as “Soledad,” directly after it. The two went together so well, that I couldn’t have it any other way but to put them together on the album in that order.
Mark Allen-Piccolo’s latest music video for “Yer Going Up” was produced by Matthew Bradford of Hank n Tank Photography. The stock footage in the video comes from selections Matthew found in the Internet Archive, and they follow a prompt that captures the sense of flying. This is achieved by the weightlessness of the song, coupled with the changing scenery. Mark recounts how he and Matthew came to decide on this mesmerizing combination of 35mm stock footage, collaged with overlays of himself playing as each part of the band:
Nate Brenner introduced me to Hank + Tank who made this video and the two videos for this album. Much of the originality of the video was straight from Hank + Tank. When we first started, he simply asked me if I had any feelings I wanted expressed in the video and asked me to send him the lyrics. I responded, “it’s supposed to move fast and be a little on the edge of falling apart. I had an idea of doing a stop motion animation of a plane taking off and flying through different environments.” With that kernel of an idea, he took off and came back with the plot of me flying around the country having different animal adventures. He somehow found a bunch of 35 mm stock footage of airplanes from the 1900’s. I don’t know where he got it! I also don’t know where he got that animal footage, but I loved it instantly. It’s so wacky, especially the idea that there would be alligators, jaguars, and lions in Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley. The end where the guy is mauled by the lion is so intense but also so absurd and funny.
He asked if I could video myself playing along with the music. I had never done anything like that before, but I bought green screen fabric from Amazon, used my DSLR for video, and set up my garage to shoot. I recorded myself playing guitar, singing, and drumming. I tried to give each “player” his own personality. It was a lot of fun. Especially the singing part. I tried to do my best impression of a cock-sure lead singer.
The idea of the plane came from what I mentioned above talking about Prince. Hank + Tank captured the mood and themes of the song perfectly. There are the shots of the plane calmly floating above the city and farmlands, the black-and-white footage slowly melting into vibrant colors. Then there’s the feeling of losing control as we see various shots of planes crashing.
Mark Allen-Piccolo’s sophomore record titled Word of the Day is out May 1st on BotCave Records. Word of the Day was co-produced by Nate Brenner (of Tune-Yards and Naytronix), who also plays bass on the album. The creative and technical aspects of the music layering were done bit-by-bit over a 2-year period, while his 2-hour daily commute to school in Davis, California was wisely utilized as time to work on the songs. As Mark puts it: “It was just me, hands on the wheel, singing along to my demos.” With some tactful use of his car’s old cassette player, he was able to hook up his phone, listen to the recordings, and build off of them. Once he came up with the song parts and lyrics, he’d then record them on his phone until it was time to get it out in the studio.
Check out “Yer Goin Up” below, along with the rest of Word of the Day: