Singer-songwriter Charlie McKeon guides us through the nostalgic fields of his latest album, Sweet Remedies, released under the pseudonym THE PISTACHIO KID. Comprised of forgotten recordings unearthed years down the line, McKeon likens their contemporary existence to releasing the nostalgic haze wrapped in the frame of old family photographs.
I never thought Sweet Remedies would be a record. It definitely is now, unless I have gone completely mad.
The recordings come from a period of isolation in West Yorkshire in 2012, just shy of Barack Obama’s re-election. I was living mainly off raw Crunchy Nut. I had bought a microphone and a cheap recording interface. I would go to sleep at six in the morning, and wake up at four in the afternoon. In between these hours I would write songs about fruit and bicycles and ignore texts and missed calls, until they stopped coming. Back then I lived a secret musical existence; I wrote things for no one and played them to no one.
Years down the line, in what felt like a different life, Violette Records came across them on one of the hundreds of thousands of SoundClouds that cloud the internet. At that time, I had over 60 tracks recorded. They picked out 10 that they wanted to release – all across quite a wide spectrum of genres and styles, and with different qualities to their recordings. Bicycle Thieves was recorded on my iPhone, resting on my lap as I waited for the kettle to boil; Sweet Remedies came as a spontaneous mantra against depression, improvised in an early morning haze; Soreberry Tree, the long electronic trip on the second side of the record, I have literally no memory of making.
None of them were written with a destination or goal, or on the same day or even month. There was no plan. The only thing that links them together is their innocence. They were all done with one microphone and in one take, and they were never touched, redone or edited again. I like the idea of standing by the first take; even though it wasn’t a deliberate decision, it results now in a certain honesty. They were never created as a means of drawing attention. The complete opposite. They were entirely my own.
All contemporary music has the opportunity to be over-produced or even over-thought. Sweet Remedies isn’t a concept album, but each track remains in its conceptual form. Its rawness is reduced by the undertaking of the listener. At that time, getting a recording set-up was like getting crafts and paints as a kid. They were toys. In a world were everybody’s trying to sell you something, I was just sitting on the mat with my crayons.
Nowadays, for me, the songs are like looking back at an old family photograph. You cannot remember the day, being there, or all of the faces around you, but you can see it is you – in your hand is the evidence. The memories are caught in a haze of nostalgia.
In fact, I feel like these recordings were made by a younger twin brother. Phillipe Agrunto, I sometimes call him, other times Cardinal Krutworth, or the Pistachio Kid. When I think about them, or listen to them, they feel like his rather than mine. I feel related to them, they’re something there’s evidence of me doing, but I’m almost sure it was Phillipe, as he has littler legs than I do.
When I was first asked to release Sweet Remedies, I was resistant to putting it out. I felt it was too personal, the recordings were like diary entries or private phone calls. It felt like it was only destined for me. But Violette looked into the strange window they came out of and saw something they believed in. One day it arrived at my house on a beautifully put together vinyl. I unwrapped it and put it on the player and watched it spin round. I could hear four in the morning, I could hear my old kitchen, I could hear my old self.
Violette somehow saw the story behind the album without me ever telling it to them, and they reflected it in the artwork. The adventurer pictured on the record sleeve attempts to locate the exploration the music embarks on, and the playful youthfulness behind it as well. The Bob Dylan cover at the end of the album was the last song I made during that period, and they placed it as the final track without that knowledge. It was recorded just before I left Yorkshire for good on a Transpenine Express train, coach C seat 43; I had a Boots meal deal and we had to stop at Stayleybridge because someone had booted a telly on the track. The end of an era.
The title in truth was just a flippant suggestion I came up with, a way of explaining the distance between myself now and myself then. Though I guess it was Freudian in a way calling it The Pistachio Kid, finally coming out of the shell.
Words: Charlie McKeon, as told to Elliot Ryder
Sweet Remedies is available now via Violette Records.