His Dark Materials and other nerdy music!

Ever since this whole wizard rock thing started and I've been blessed to meet incredible people and travel to a ton of new places, I've wanted to make music with as many people as possible. There are so many talented musicians in this community and I'm so happy to call them my friends. I'm also pretty freaking ecstatic to call one of them my boyfriend.

Matt and I have worked on music together before. Back when he was recording his newest full-length album, Demons at the Helm, I contributed some harmonies and backup vocals to a few songs that needed something. At that point, I think we realized that we compliment each other's musical styles and talents pretty well, and we've been tossing around ideas for a collaboration project ever since. We both wanted a reason to write cute, nerdy music that isn't necessarily about Harry Potter. I also wanted an excuse to play ukulele in a band, so I'm going to be playing it on pretty much every song while Matt plays acoustic guitar.

Today, we posted the first two songs for our new side project, a band called Armoured Bearcub. If you get the reference, you'll be happy to know that one of the songs we've posted is based on an event in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, specifically, The Subtle Knife. In "Lee Scoresby's Last Stand", Matt sings from Lee's perspective and I'm singing as his hare dæmon, Hester. We're very excited for people to hear this song.

The other song we posted is a bit less heavy. "Let's Get Our Masters Degrees In Love" focuses on a lighthearted account of our reasons for not continuing our education past a Bachelor's Degree (at least, not yet).

Since we've already had a complaint about our decision to host this music on MySpace until we make some music videos for YouTube or finish a full album and put it on iTunes, I just set up a Facebook page for the band. On there, you can get all kinds of updates on what we've been working on, including future music videos that we'll be putting on YouTube and a forum where you can have discussions about our music! We're still waiting for them to verify the page so we can post our music on there though, so if you want to hear it, you'll have to go to MySpace for a few minutes. I'm sorry.

We'd love for you guys to follow the MySpace and the Facebook page, and we can't wait to get more songs finished so we can share them with you on those pages! You can find them here:


Please let us know what you think about the music on those pages! Like I said, we can't wait for you guys to hear this stuff and we're so excited to write more songs and work on music videos for them. Yaayyy!

Motivational Issues.

My first two weeks of school weren't terribly awful. This semester, my weeks are super short. They essentially feel like three very packed days, followed by a four-day weekend. The arrangement is pretty nice, except that I am much less likely to get work done early because I feel like I'm on break all the time. I'm sure it doesn't help that I've started the weekend trips, but they keep me sane so I'm not likely to slow them down anytime soon.

On Thursday, I got out of a full day of back-to-back classes and jumped in the car for a seven or eight hour drive to Rhode Island. As always, being with Matt makes everything better, even though I knew I'd have to do the drive backwards and immediately go to class once it was over. Time with him is always worth whatever I have to do to make it happen. I'm really freaking excited that I finally got to see the dæmons play live, and I drove back here last night and this morning feeling very inspired to write again. I really needed the change of scenery, to see Matt before he goes on tour for a month and a half, and the reminder that I can go some places and feel like I belong there.

Rhode Island has seriously grown on me since I started spending more time there with Matt. I love the people and the food and aside from needing to deal with Connecticut traffic, I don't even mind driving there anymore. Saturday night, I ran up to give Brad a hug when he got to the party and he said, "Welcome home." It's really heartwarming how a relatively new place can just feel like home, even if you've only visited for a few weeks. Being at Etown still doesn't give me that feeling, so it's especially nice when I get to experience it in the middle of the semester.

I'm only going to be here for the next three days, so hopefully I'll get all of my reading done without getting too cranky. I'm kind of worried about how it's getting more and more difficult for me to force myself to do everything far enough ahead of time to get in reading responses and study for unnecessarily frequent quizzes on the chapters. I am very close to being done with college and I know I can do it, but now that I've decided not to continue or try for a job in Psychology yet, it's becoming a lot tougher to get all of this work done.

On the bright side, I picked up a ton of mail today and put the new art up on my wall. If I'm lost for reasons to keep smiling this semester, you guys and the things you've sent me will definitely point me in the right direction. I'm trying to figure out the best way to make a video about all of this art, and I don't know if I should wait a bit before I do that. I definitely want to find a clever way to share this with you guys though, because it's one of the coolest things ever having a wall covered with cards that people all over the world decorated and sent to me. Thank you again for doing this for me. :)

I am now approaching the part of the night where I am thinking about how great it would be to go to sleep, but unfortunately, I have another textbook chapter, some Psychology articles, and an outline for a presentation I have to give on Thursday to work on.

Wall Art!

Earlier this week, I posted a video asking people to make 4" x 6" index card-sized pieces of art for me to put on my dorm wall/YouTube backdrop. Today, I got up and went to the post office in town to see if any submissions had come in yet! At first, they said that the box was empty and that my new keys had not come in yet (I applied and paid for the box a week ago, and they told me to come back for the keys since the ones they had were not working). So I left, and about two minutes later, I got a phone call saying that they found my mail. If for some reason any of you guys get your mail returned, please let me know because they didn't put it in my box, they just put a rubber band around all of my mail and left the pile on a table in the back somewhere. Apparently, they think my box is vacant. Thanks, Etown post office. Everyone here is extremely well-organized and on top of things, as usual.

However, the things I received made me so freaking happy that it doesn't matter and I don't even mind that I probably have to go back there to figure out why they aren't putting my mail in my box. You guys sent me beautiful, funny, creative, and just really awesome pieces of art and I loved looking through each of your little packages and envelopes. I'm seriously just blown away by how creative and generous you guys are, and I'm honored to have your art on my wall.

I didn't just end up with index cards either; most of them came with really genuine, heartfelt letters. It makes me so incredibly happy to know that I've made you guys happy, and I wanted to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart... not only for working on these cards, but also for supporting me over the years. You guys are the reason why I keep doing this stuff, and I really, really appreciate every single one of you, whether you have all my CDs and see all of my shows and leave comments on everything or you just quietly listen and enjoy what I do. You're all amazing people, and I'm so glad that I'm finally getting to see the kinds of fantastic things you guys can do.

Thank you Holly, Kiera, Nalts (yes, I fangirled his submission for a minute or two), Liz, Rachel, Sarah S, Sarah R, Maddy, Kara, Jason, Daniel, anyone who only put their names on the backs of their cards (which are already attached to my wall) and anyone who has sent or is working on or is thinking about working on one of these cards for me. It's only been five days since I posted the video with this idea and I already have over 20 decorated index cards and a box full of absolutely gorgeous photography that Daniel sent me. I can't wait to go back in a few days to see what else is in my PO box by then! I'm going to be accepting these until my PO box expires after this semester, so don't worry! I have plenty of wall space left!

You guys have made my life at college better, whether you're contributing to my wall or listening to my music or commenting on my videos or even leaving me messages here on my blog. And I know that people like thekatbc are "disgusted" by the fact that college depresses me and I blog about things that depress me sometimes, but so many more of you actually understand and have been there for me when I'm down. I intended for this blog to be a place where I can vent and be who I am and express myself, and almost all of you have made me feel like I can do that. So thank you. :)

I am on fire.

The following is a completely spoiler-free exercise in attempting to explain how I feel immediately after finishing the sequel to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, Catching Fire. However, I cannot be responsible for what might happen in the comments. There is my disclaimer.

I seriously feel like I'm being ripped apart from the inside. These books eat my soul in a very, very good way. Just like with the first one, I had extreme difficulty putting the second book down for more than an hour or so in which I had to force myself to eat and pee. I also got to the point where there were so many twists and turns that were tossed to me so quickly, I had to literally cover the page ahead of me with my hand to keep from jumping ahead and spoiling myself. I cannot get that final line out of my head and I can't stop thinking about what just happened, what is happening, what is coming next. It all goes so quickly and when you reach that final page, your race to find out every little detail is ripped out of your hands and dangled just out of your reach until the third book is released (supposedly, sometime in 2010). I kind of have this weird urge to stare blankly at the wall ahead of me and just let the reality (well, fantasy) of what just happened wash over me. Devouring these books feels every bit as real and threatening as truly being in that world would be. Ten minutes ago, I caught myself reopening the last pages to make sure that the words I'm seeing, hearing, and feeling over and over in my mind actually have come from a book and not from an intense disaster I've personally witnessed. I can actually feel what this book has done to me, and I like it.

Since I want to give you guys a bit more time to get your hands on this book and finish it before I discuss actual plot details, I think that I'm going to stop there. Please read these books if this seems like something you would enjoy too. They probably won't take you very long, because I have yet to find someone who can successfully stay away from the remaining unread pages whenever you leave to take a break. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that they will seriously change your life.

Do Not Want.

This always happens whenever I have to make a conscious effort to move myself and my things back to Etown. I don't do it earlier because I don't want to go. I end up late and rushing. I end up forgetting things. I end up tired and sweaty after I had just taken a shower because I end up moving everything into my car by myself. I end up crying the whole ride back.

Matt rented a car and is driving all the way here to follow me all the way there, help me move in, and then sit in a hotel room by himself while I spend several hours rehearsing, sound checking, waiting to perform, and then performing with Vocalign. I wish I could spend a little more time with him, especially with everything he's done to be there with me and make me feel a little less awful about having to go back.

Whine whine whine whine whine. My life is so difficult. My parents pay for college and I complain to them and everyone else about it all the freaking time because I don't like being there.

All I want is for this year to be a little bit less awful than the past three so I can get through it without being too miserable. Is that so much to ask?

Really Long Summer Blog.

One interesting thing I've noticed over the past few years is that the meaning of summer has completely changed for me since high school. Before, summer meant a break from work. It meant that I could stay up late, hang out with friends or go shopping during the day, and go on vacation with my family. Now, summer has become the time that I can do the work I've wanted to do all year, but couldn't because I was stuck at college doing work I didn't want to do. I actually get to do my job full-time in the summer, and I enjoy every minute of it, even though it keeps me very busy.

LeakyCon started out my summer and it was an absolute blast. However, I was constantly doing something and that exhausted me quite a bit. I was up early every morning, fighting to get a lunch break, and going to bed as soon as the concerts were done at the end of the night. I was really super careful not to lose my voice because we were almost the last band of the conference and I had to make sure that I could still sing by then. I only partied one night, and that only lasted until about 2am. If you've been to one of these conferences, where all-nighters are almost expected of you, you know how unheard of that is.

Luckily, the rest paid off because I was leaving on tour two days later with some of my best friends ever. I had the time of my life on tour this summer. It was a lot of hard work, and I almost never noticed that because I loved it so much. There was a whole lot of driving, very little sleep, a lot of taking vitamin C and trying to stay healthy, and almost no internet involved. And I would definitely, hands down, do this every day if I could.

Unfortunately, I came home to a few health issues included a really horrific backache that made it really difficult to sit down and provided constant, intense pain for about four weeks. I went to the chiropractor a lot, saw a scoliosis specialist in NYC, discovered that getting an MRI is nowhere near as much fun as riding in a spaceship might be, and now I feel better but I'm not really sure how long that will last. I also had some pretty annoying gum surgery to build up and strengthen the gum tissue that had worn away for some reason. The procedure itself wasn't unbearable and only required ice and rest for about a day. I spent twenty days with rubber packing bandages covering the left side of my mouth to keep the stitches safe, and that made eating difficult, but it wasn't so bad. In a few months when I've fully recovered, they're going to do it again to the right side of my mouth. Hooray!

After the Half-Blood Prince release, I headed off to San Francisco for my first west coast wizard rock experience. Even though the people in charge of Azkatraz thought that it would be fun to toss me around for several months before and during the conference, I wanted to be there to support my friends and have some fun. I sold merch for Matt during his shows and in the vendor room, which ended up being fun because I got to meet a ton of awesome people. It made me really happy how many people were asking where my merch was or if I would be playing a show there. I had never actually been invited to play, but I had been told ahead of time that I was a backup plan in case one of the other bands dropped out. This ended up being some kind of mistake or a lie, because when that band did drop out, I was not actually asked to play.

Once I was in California, a second band dropped out and a few of my friends had texted me to see if I would step in and play that night. I figured that it was kind of suspicious that the people in charge still hadn't tried to ask me themselves, so I said no. I wasn't interested in being thrown around anymore. One of my friends finally convinced me to say yes and I decided to play, if only for the fantastic people I'd met all weekend who wanted to see me perform. Unfortunately, by the time I finally tracked down the person who was in charge of booking the show I'd been asked to play, it was clear that she was only interested in basking in the glory of her stand-in performance in Lena's Wrock Opera and didn't really care at all about finding a band to fill in for dropout #2. After being told to just set up in a corner somewhere and do whatever I want (as she shrugged me away with a wave of her hand and went off to enjoy her newfound fame), I had a bit of an uncontrollably Myrtle-like sobfest in front of a little crowd of really amazing people who had gathered when they saw me lugging around a guitar and trying to figure out where I was supposed to be playing. I felt bad letting them down, but at that point, I was really not in the mood to play a set. It would be really nice if all conference staffers were as respectful and organized as the ones in charge of LeakyCon.

Luckily, this happened fairly early in the conference so I was able to calm myself down and have fun for the rest of the trip. I hadn't seen Matt for over a month before going out to San Francisco, and I really loved spending time with some of the friends I don't get to talk to as often, like Rosi, Emma, Melissa, and Sarah. I also enjoyed meeting and hanging out with StarKidPotter, the masterminds behind A Very Potter Musical. Azkatraz was a fantastic example of how Harry Potter conferences can make any bad situation so much easier to handle because there are so many amazing, caring people around to take care of you when something goes wrong.

Last weekend, I drove out to Ohio with Nina to see our friends, Sarah and Graham, get married. This marked the first friend wedding I'd ever been to, and I cried quite a bit during the ceremony and even during the toasts at the reception. It was absolutely beautiful and I'm so happy that I got to be there. I also really needed and loved the Hayley-time. She is one of my favorite people in the whole world.

Aside from the month I spent in my bed at home trying to sleep through the back pain while Matt was on tour and Nina was in Poland, I haven't been home very much this summer. I've spent most of my time off staying with Matt in Rhode Island, which has been really nice. We do a lot of similar things in our downtime, so it's been really nice working on my laptop, eating good food, reading books, making YouTube videos, and watching movies with someone other than just myself.

The funny thing is, I used to spend summer getting ready for school to start. Now, I spend the school year getting ready for summer to start. And here I am, about to begin my senior year of college. I was definitely able to rest this summer, so hopefully I won't get back to school and crash immediately like I did last year. Starting next May, I'll be able to do all of this full-time. I wouldn't have it any other way, except maybe to have it a little sooner.

Making a website.

So here’s a scenario for you.

You’re an independent musician focusing on internet promotion to get your music and other projects out there. After around four years, you’ve accumulated a bit of media attention and some really awesome fans, many of whom have become some of your greatest friends. You can’t play very many shows yet because you’re still in college, but you spend every free moment you have trying to spread the word about the performances you do manage to line up. Eventually, you get to play the show in, say, Winner, SD (and it’s awesome). Immediately upon returning home, you check your YouTube messages and right on top is one that looks like this:

Subject: Your Biggest Fan!
Dear Lauren,
I love your music so much. I have all your CDs and they are constantly on repeat in my car. My ultimate dream is to see you play a live show. Why don’t you ever come to Winner, SD?

jnrfdgoffseosfkdfsdkdsfjj (In case you were wondering, that is the result of your head banging into your keyboard because your diligent promotion managed to escape the attention of your biggest fan and you really have no idea when you’ll have the money to visit Winner, SD again)

Today (well, yesterday when I wrote this), I’ve decided that I’m actually going to put together a comprehensive website that covers all of the various music and internet projects I’ve started over the past few years. I bought a brand new 13” MacBook Pro about a week ago, so I’ve been playing with iWeb pretty much all day. I seem to have given up trying to do something creative and I'm just going with their cookie cutter layouts until I figure out how to do something else, but we'll see how long that lasts. I’m not sure where I’m going to host this or which domain name to buy or if I’ll even finish the website before I get distracted and start another project, but it’s a start.

I realize that I’m probably going to be linking to this site on all of my other various methods of internet expression for a long time before people even consider coming here first for updates, but we’ll see how it goes. If I can reach one more fan that would have missed a show update otherwise, then it’s worth a try.