Patrick Ames Evolves Lyrically Potent Blues, Funk, Soul and Folk Sound on “The Virtualistics” Album
Composer and writer Patrick Ames continues to evolve his lyrically potent signature cocktail of junkyard blues on the new album, “The Virtualistics.” due for release June 16th. The album contains 8 songs written during the pandemic by the Napa Valley-based artist, each one hopeful and resilient in its own distinct way. The album title was inspired by the nature of the recording style; although Patrick Ames writes the music and lyrics, much of his collaborations with producer Jon Ireson and backup singers Chana Matthews and Mikaela Matthews, have been virtual.
From the pandemic-inspired post-punk of “Second Wave” and “Essential Workers” to the funked up gospel rock of “Help People Up” and “Reawakened 2020” to the spacious, philosophical “Great Bunch of Molecules” and the bluesy, fun energy of “Rubber and Glue”, “Songwriter’s Block” and “You Make Me Scream”, Patrick Ames “The Virtualistics” album displays a tenacious spirit throughout.
About “The Virtualistics”:
The Virtualistics. The band that never met. Remote collaboration is common but we never met during a difficult pandemic year. The four of us never practiced together. We didn’t sing together nor did we pre-plan the final sound. We were virtual entities, duly recording our tracks on various home devices and sending them in for assembly. Those famous photographs of The Virtualistics, studious musicians playing on stage, hard working in the studio, those tired looks of a fifth take, none of that happened. We never sang or played together.
Amazingly, it sounds like we were together, unvirtually, I guess is the word. It sounds like a 9-piece band that is funkin’ up the place even though we were half-depressed and struggled with work, virus, and bad politics. Half of the songs were released as singles mostly because I didn’t want to be depressed and fed upon that new release excitement every few months.
It’s been a year of virtual studio sessions that require large leaps of faith when you’re contributing to a song that isn’t finished yet and sounded like a sketch. It’s like that group game where everyone adds one line to the preexisting story going around in a circle and by the time everyone speaks the story is unbelieveably creative and interesting. Start with a few lyrics, add a riff or two, start weaving in counter melodies, add some phat beats – each song went around the Virtualistics circle a few times.
All these songs were recorded during the pandemic by The Virtualistics. – Patrick Ames
Jon Ireson, Producer, says: Patrick Ames and the Virtualistics
I mixed Patrick’s last album (Liveness) at the beginning of 2020 and by May he had more new material ready to be molded. Although the lyrical themes all come from Patrick, it definitely helps that we are on the same page politically/philosophically. As the tumultuous events of 2020 unfolded, the songs he was sending me about racial and social justice, trust in science, and the hard work of affecting positive transformation in the public square were echoing my own thoughts in real time. When the world goes haywire, music is there to make sense of it.
Album opener and lead single “Help People Up” will have an official music video release on June 16. The video was created by Blue Cafe Music.
Watch “Help People Up” on Youtube.
The album’s second music video release is the philosophical gem “Great Bunch of Molecules”:
“The topic is odd I know but I’ve always been fascinated with the fact that your body really does replace itself every seven years. Now I just made it into a song, that’s all, a song about whomever constitutes me is being replaced and we’ll miss it/you/we/us. It really illustrates that twenty years ago I was really a different person. A totally different set of cells. I do admit a certain delight in rhyming biology terms in a musical melody. The song is about spaces. Just like molecules are all about the spaces between atoms holding the molecule together. The repetitive space that repeats the simple melody and the long silences in between verses just reminded me of the spaces molecules must have. I first recorded the whole song with voice and guitar and then went in again and recorded each separately, both in a single live cut and then sent that off to Jon. Jon plays the other guitars and a bass that has some sweet touches of harmony. His mix board on my voice adds the reverb and depth of yet again, another space — so well that I expect to hear someone cough during the long pauses.” – Patrick Ames
Jon Ireson, Producer says: “This is my favorite track on the LP and it’s the one with the most sparse production. Patrick brought it to me fairly late in the process and was a little unsure of how to frame it. I said: just get out of its way! Let the song speak for itself. He came up with these great contemplative lyrics from this unconventional perspective. I thought it was brilliant. So I left a lot of space for the words to hang. I added some countermelody in the guitar to give it a tag line and backed it with acoustic bass but I was committed to let the theme do the heavy lifting. I think it turned out really well.”
Most recently, Patrick released the 3rd music video from “The Virtualistics”, the powerful, hopeful “Reawakened 2020”.
“In short I wrote Reawakened 2020 as a reaction to Trump’s inaugural and I wrote Help People Up in reaction to Biden’s inaugural, explaining the bookends nature of the two songs, and all the songs inbetween them. Reawakened was a call to action, a shout out that the good inside us must come out and that we must help each other. The original song was on the Four Faces EP and a highlight, and I wanted to reamplify the sound, crank up the output, and put in a professional bassist (Jon) instead of my feeble attempts on the boards (I am not a bassist). I wanted it modernized and to amp up the cresendo in the last minute and a half. I wanted to make it a “2020” version, and get those reawoken lyrics back out there with a successful and creative producer. Jon Ireson’s “Reawakened 2020” hits every brain dopamine receptor there is! Jon Ireson kept the core song exactly as it was recorded, including myself and Chana and Mikaela’s voices, and the parts of the score such as the piano (which is actually my MIDI guitar synth). But Jon did the bass and some other instruments and wove them together on this new track. He remixed the whole thing and then remastered it all into the new “Reawakened 2020”. It’s a fitting end to the LP The Virtualistics and a wrap-up to Help People Up. Are you reawoke? FYI: Just before the 2:00 minute mark, you can hear Finnegan, the cat, shakes his collar bell. And Jon amped that up, too!)”
Stream “The Virtualistics”:
Order on Bandcamp: https://patrickames.bandcamp.com
Read Patrick’s book in the making, “Life in the Vineyard” on Substack.com. A year’s journal in Napa Valley that criss-crosses the Pandemic and multiple fires: https://patrickames.substack.com.