# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering

  by Steve Miles

published: 8 / 3 / 2024

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering

‘Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’ – Cesar Cruz. These are tough times in the world. What is happening in Gaza is as horrible as any conflict this century; intolerance for differences of opinion and online hatred are both inescapable and seemingly unstoppable, and the environmental and public health issues that threaten the earth can’t be underestimated, and yet they are by everyone with the power to make a big difference to them. Within this kind of world, relationships can easily take on far more import than ever. A strong love, a stable family, or a great friend can be an island of hope in a sea of scariness, an emblem of safety in a world of harm, and a daily comfort. Someone to help you take the strain, to believe you and believe in you, can be a lifesaver. But with that comes the possibility of great pain too, because that’s a lot to lose if it goes wrong. And for all the incredible division and hatred in the world, we’re all fundamentally the same, no matter how often we forget. We all want to be safe, to not be alone, to be healthy, to be fulfilled and to belong. But even though we all want the same thing, there are still two sorts of people in the world. There are those who want all those things for themselves, and then there are those who want them not just for themselves but for other people too. Think about it: every indignant anti-immigrant tweet (and every business decision by X’s owner), every missile fired over Deir al-Balah, and every knee-jerk rejection of the way people love each other or how they choose to describe themselves, comes only from someone who does not want others to have the freedoms, or the comfort, or the confidence they want for themselves. They’re also the sort to ‘walk past on the other side’ when they see someone suffering. The people who write the songs I want to listen to don’t come from that camp. They notice other people’s pain, and they care about it. But they aren’t the loudest of the two factions; they aren’t the boldest and they aren’t the most aggressive. By definition, they are more respectful of others’ opinions and less certain of their own; more likely to want to allow others to do or to think what they like and less likely to try to sell you their product or persuade you to join them. Which is why it’s an incredible privilege, a mixture of treat and relief, to find a voice that quietly, beautifully, thoughtfully and wisely says all these things in song. All the more wonderful to find that voice to be a beguilingly gravelly baritone underscored by exemplary musicianship and songwriting skills, which is why I wanted to write this piece, in case you might like it too. The band is called Green Boots and their first eleven songs appeared on Bandcamp between February and April of last year, sometimes individually and sometimes in small groups, but with no fanfare or explanation. When is an album not an album? When it’s just a guy sharing what he’s done, in as simple and DIY a way as possible. I reached out to the artist behind these songs and he was kind enough to give me some of his time online, so what follows is a sketch of most of those songs, mixed in with our discussion of them and of his creative processes, all by way of recommendation to listen to them. The force behind Green Boots turns out to be an American guy called John Hoeffleur (‘pronounced Heffler, as if it didn't have all those extra vowels’) who made a small amount of brilliant music fifteen or twenty years ago under a different name, The Beauty Shop. But he doesn’t really want to talk about that, just about what he’s doing now, so this is all about Green Boots. He comes across to me as an intense, self-deprecating, hugely intelligent guy, with very strong opinions he’s thought about a lot, but is loath to foist on others. He is also a man who very much cares about other people, and cares about quality relationships, while also finding them difficult: sensitive man caught in the inevitable contradictions of the caring, caught in the headlights of his own intellect and imagination. The first available Green Boots song, released on February 13th last year, was called ‘Amway’ and a good starting point for anyone new to the band (although it sounds more like it was recorded by a full band than any other song here). Musically, it’s a mixture of gently ringing, jazz-tinged chords and effortlessly smooth fuzzy lead guitar over a slightly curious organ sound. Lyrically, it’s a subtle and understated but ultimately coruscating condemnation of the ‘American way’. The singer outlines the American direct equivalent of the recent British home secretary's heartless and ignorant pronunciations about homelessness as a lifestyle choice. Skilfully, the singer instead positions the of the song’s protagonist’s troubles as an inevitable consequence of free market economics and libertarian rhetoric. ‘Sell my plasma/ Got that every 28 days/ Tent for shelter/ Let's say I got it made in the shade/ Oh yeah that's the American Way’. The oddly jaunty and uplifting melody contrasts brilliantly with the lyrics’ recount of all-too-common facts made painfully moving by the first-person narration. Once heard a few times, the song becomes a blistering indictment of the ‘insane cruelty’ that politicians and business people foist on those who are ‘trapped within the USA and trapped within ideology’, without ever saying so directly. ‘So you feel fine/ As long as you are looking away/ Oh yeah it's the American Way’ It is a really powerful song politically, without ever coming across as sloganeering, which is a difficult feat to pull off. ‘ I'm really just trying to look,’ he explains. ‘Far be it for me to think that I could give voice to the poor people that see hanging on the street corner or whatever, but I'm I am trying to put myself in their shoes to what degree I can. I don't want to be one of these people to, like, pretend to be homeless for a night, go sleep on the lawn or whatever, but I'm trying to give some thought to the people who really are in the bottom and the way they see things. The point I'm trying to make in that tune is in that kind of ‘do it yourself, I got mine’ American thinking, it's hard even for people who are underneath it to escape that ideology, it's all-encompassing. I think it kind of as an American anthem, not that I am so crazy to think that this would ever you know that everybody would glom onto it or raise it, but just an acknowledgement that this is where we're at. I don't know, I'm angry…’ I ask him whether the lines, ‘Don't hate the player/ Hate the game’ mean that you should blame the system rather than the people, and his response is nuanced and wise: ‘Too often we will personalise it - I mean, it's fashionable, especially in kind of liberal or left-leaning spaces to cite structures, but then also to focus entirely on persons; like, we understand that the problems are structural but then we take issue with people.’ (Even a cursory mental swipe of any coverage of American politics makes this abundantly clear, as soon as you think about it.) The truth is for a lot of our stuff, it doesn't matter who you swap into any of these roles, they all behave the same way. The way we're taught in the USA is to look out for yourself and ‘scrape them off’, to borrow the phrase from Scrooged. There were vivid reminders, almost daily certainly under pandemic conditions, that people just don't give a shit what happens to other people.’ It strikes me that John must find it difficult to see quite where he belongs in the American political landscape, and he doesn’t disagree. ‘I'm not a political partisan: I'm not a Democrat or a Republican, but the way that Americans, at least, engage in politics is that almost everyone that has a political interest typically ends up as one or the other. You know, who would you rather have a beer with? It's kind of shit, like who's your favourite Beatle?! That's not how I want to be arriving at my political convictions: everybody is like, ‘I like him, he seems nice,’ but I think a lot about justice and poverty and capitalism and that's basically what the American Way boils down to. I was called a Trump supporter online earlier today - people they think if you're criticising Democrats, you must be a Trumpster. There’s this kind of binary thinking, this simple black and white / good guy bad guy narratives, and I do whatever I can to frustrate those and in so doing become the worst guy!’ I ask John if he feels like he’s an outlier? 'I do, but I don't know if that's in my head or what? I feel that way but I wonder if everyone feels that way? I can't tell objectively.’ I learn that he grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and moved down to Champaign, Illinois, a big university town, to get his degree and ‘kind of never left’. ‘I think about moving, but it's hard for me to figure out where else I might go. I've bought a house now so I'll be here for a little while I guess.’ ‘I was holed up in here last winter and I guess a lot of shit went wrong and I moved back in with my mom for a period of five or six months and I was making music in her basement. She tolerated it. It was very loud. I don't feel ashamed of anything that I feel that I should express. I don't wanna turn into some kind of like sad sack minstrel show, some overzealous sad guy crying o ‘Minutemen are re my favourite band. I’m this big Mike Watt fan. I learned a lot of my philosophy about music and the music industry from him. ‘Double Nickels On The Dime’ is a masterwork in my opinion. And that's I got how I got into Wire…’ ‘I moved around a lot more as a kid and I think that that that was formative for me. I don't know how that relates to my sense of not fitting in, but like I said before, I think that everyone kind of feels this way. I don't know, I think there's a lot of people that kind of pretend that they fit in or whatever but I'm not sure everyone in their real self feels like they do. Can I show you a prop?’ John laughs and gets up to fetch a leather jacket with ‘Weirdo’ on the back. ‘I got weirdos, you know. Like, they're my people. I appreciate that they allow themselves to be themselves, to be somebody different, to not worry about what other people are going to think of them or whatever. These are the people I'm attracted to and… I want to enlarge that tribe. There's a real thing in music and hipsterdom to like all these ever-cooler shrinking little insular groups, but I want to expand the tribe called ‘Weirdos’. I want to convert people in. To be, like, ‘Yeah, you feel that way? I thought you did. Hang out with us. Because I think it's a lot less rare, a lot more common, that feeling of not fitting in, the feeling of, like, ‘There is something fucking wrong here’ than we know. I think to some degree we all have it and I want us all to acknowledge it and whatever: hold hands and shit…’ Which brings us neatly to the sympathetic social commentary of ‘BXB’, released on the 1st of March 2023. This track has keys in the foreground, and a cool, synthetic rimshot and hi hat driving it along, coupled with a floaty synth bass. There’s an almost flamenco-tinged guitar floating in the mix and what seems to be a kettle boiling at end! B x B stands for ‘blank by blank’ and is a reference to the lyrical motifs, a variety of similar refrains: ‘step by step’, ‘day by day’, ‘piece by piece’. It’s a smart and sympathetic song about kinds of addiction, from the keenly observed guy who ‘On the sidewalk/ Rides his mountain bike/ In flannel shirt/ Got two DUIs’, through the ‘junkie with a cardboard sign’, to the author and the listeners ourselves, surely, and our relationship to social media. ‘Put in my pin/ I enter my password/ Welcomed back in/ Complete the captcha/…Your whole brain is a cellular phone/ When you live for the dopamine/ Can’t peel your face from the god damn screen.’ ‘The point is we always try to stop people doing whatever they’re self-medicating with, but most of us have a pretty compulsive and unhealthy relationship with our devices. If I can stir somebody to think and be like, ‘Oh, I get what he's saying; yeah, I have my own set of addictions so I can't really judge other people for theirs.’ ‘Barer’, released at the same time, showcases the qualities of many of the songs here, delivering a strong, memorable melody that has all the catchiness of the Spotify crew without any of the cheesy predictability and saccharine delivery of mass-produced pop. ‘Frail and tender hearts within/ Beat alone, beat apart/ Fear your flaws exposed/ Wanting love but not to be known’ It’s a keyboard-based song, with floaty organ sounds and a sparse, synth rhythm section. A song that captures the contradictions of the open hearted: desperate to share, to break down barriers, to be open and honest, but equally conscious of the vulnerability, frailty and hurt that can follow. ‘ I bare my self/ I bare my soul/ I bare it all/ It's just you I dare show/ All of my faults/ All of my crimes/ All of the truth that has hurt you sometimes’ The words are all about a relationship, but there are echoes of our exploration in this interview about John’s approach to music. Gentle guitar echoes the keys towards the end of the tune and the listener is left feeling kinder and gentler. ‘Catch and Release’ takes its title from fishing, when a fish is caught and then returned to the water ‘unharmed’ to continue its existence in its natural environment. The singer has been caught and released, but much like the fish, I imagine, there’s a fair degree of post-traumatic stress to cope with in the allegedly ‘unharmed’ release state. ‘A practical joke/ I bite the hook that you're baiting’ ‘Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to trash fishing!’ A running theme of our conversation is me remarking on how polished and careful all the words and music are, and John saying how he’s not happy with this bit or that section, or how they could be better. A perfectionist’s dissatisfaction hangs over all that he has released, which is very much at odds with this listener’s experience. The world-weary survivor’s tenor of his singing comes across finely here. Not everyone could make this song work, and he really does, conveying despondency without self-pity, and darkness without desolation as he casts out the refrain, ‘We are pretty much fucked then’. I try to compliment John for the quality and appeal of his voice, but in a manner that soon came to be typical, he swiftly deflected any kind of praise. ‘It’s like Lady Gaga said - I Was Born This Way. I gotta make do with what I got. I've never had any vocal lessons.’ ‘It’s OK, but I'm not super happy with ‘Catch and Release’. I basically don't play it live. It's kind of corny, like I put all the strings mostly just to get some experience programming.’ I said it struck me that the songs showed that he had really mastered keyboards, with all kinds of flourishes on there, but in, again, the typically self-deprecating response, ‘You press buttons and it puts the notes in for you man! It makes it pretty easy, I can't really take credit,’ oblivious to the fact that if it really was that easy everyone else’s songs would be as good as Green Boots – and, believe me, they’re not! ‘I don’t belong to any school. I work in my corner.’ – Toulouse-Lautrec. I tell John that another thing I find really strong in his songs is the ‘author’s voice’. A lot of writers struggle to find a way to be themselves and yet also communicate well what they want to others. Many never get there. But his ‘voice’, I tell him, is clear and consistent throughout. And his songs are nearly always (to me anyway), a conversation which is kind of half to somebody else but half to himself. Catch And Release is a good example of that skilful technique. He replies, ‘I'm not fooling anyone. I'm working some shit out when I'm writing these tunes, and it's not even about anybody else hearing them it's about kind of exorcising… So yeah, I couldn't pretend it's not getting some of that resentment and shit out into the light where I can maybe have a look at it and see how I feel about my own feelings.’ And that, I tell him, is exactly why I love his songs! As that’s precisely what I’m looking for in a record! John is, again, defensive of the praise. ‘Especially in this business, a lot of people I think avoid having their own voice. Everything I've learned about the music business - which is not a whole lot - is that if I got anywhere, it's from doing what I want to do, and being who I was. But I I know a lot of compatriots over the years in other bands that were always trying to do what was happening right now, they're trying to kind of hit that target: it's like, ‘People like Interpol, guys we gotta sound like Interpol, hurry up!’ And by the time they’ve changed their whole style around to sound like Interpol, or whatever the fucking band of the day was, it's over: it's too late and I was an imitation of that anyway. So I learned that I gotta do what I gotta do, otherwise you're not really differentiating yourself. And that's kind of the kind of the Green Boots thing… I have a lot of like misgivings about creating music - that's all it's all fake, it's all digital, but otherwise it's never going to get done. It was never really my intent to climb some kind of ladder. If I could add even a couple thousand people that bought everything I put out I'd be totally fine with that. All I really care to do is get out and play a little bit. I’m a 45-year-old man – it would be delusional to think that I'd be climbing the Billboard charts in any appreciable way. I was entirely focused on getting it across the finish line to me which was, you can press play on it. And people can decide if they want to go there and listen to it, or when they listen to it, if it sucks or not, that's all out of my hands.’ At this point I ask him about the band’s name. I had googled Green Boots and found a bizarre and morbid true story, that genuinely surprised me. ‘Green Boots’ is the nickname given to the body of an unidentified climber that became a landmark on a main climbing route on Mount Everest in 1996. Incredibly, no-one is totally sure who the dead climber was, and even more incredibly, he’s only one of approximately 200 corpses that are simply left, frozen, where they fell, for all subsequent climbers to pass by. Although ‘Green Boots’ was moved to a less conspicuous spot in 2014, he remains on the mountain. And his presence may have contributed to a second death, as in 2006, British mountaineer David Sharp died of hypothermia even though maybe forty other climbers passed him as he lay dying; it has been suggested that those who noticed him mistook him for Green Boots and therefore ignored him. ‘Yeah, he's a corpse, a landmark. It's just dark as fuck, it's just super dark. And if you bother to check it out, then you find it's like wow! I kind of want to call the first album ‘On Top Of The World’, you know! But, also, I like band names where you can't tell what it's going to sound like, and, again, you have to find out for yourself.’ ‘Normality is a well-paved street; it is good for walking, but no flowers will grow there.’ - Vincent van Gogh The third of three songs released on March 1st last year is ‘Halo/Shadow,’ which seemed to me on first listens to be about having conflicting desires; taking the old ‘angel or devil on my shoulder’ idea, and giving it a twist. The interplay of the jazz-tinged organ and dirty, fuzzy-pedalled lead guitar shows that Green Boots could easily play killer hard rock if they wanted. There’s a great acknowledgement of how being good in a world, or in a relationship, that doesn’t value goodness, can be difficult. ‘Halo/ Getting so heavy/ High road/ Bringing me down.’ and in Green Boots, there are two angels within, whilst the devil is outside – someone else, other people. I love the refocus: ‘Angel/ One on my shoulder/ Angel/ One in my heart.’ But the origin of the song is more earthy as it’s also about the ‘dark side of sex’. ‘There's a sweetness there that I'm trying to conjure up, the sweet and sour or something like that. Just the creepiness of the tune… it’s got piano on it, but you know I tried to like rough it up: honestly, I was kind of aiming for a kind of a Tom Waits’ ‘Bone Machine’ kind of sound.’ ‘Bad girl/ So ashamed of/ Who it is that you want to be.’ The next song we discuss is ‘Homeless’, the verses of which feature a vibrant, joyous strolling piano accompanied by a single, sparse, treated snare. A rockish rhythm guitar boosts the choruses but there’s no hiding from the sadness of the theme. ‘I have no place/ I have no home/When I’m with you/ I’m all alone.’ ‘Homeless’ is a fantastic companion piece to Amway. That dealt with physical homelessness, while the protagonist of ‘Homeless’ is spiritually homeless. ‘That’s funny, because I had both chord progressions for a few years, and when I finally put some lyrics and added the vocal melodies, for Amway it came out this kind of political thing, and for Homeless, it came out really being about this failure of this relationship, feeling like even at home, I didn't really have the safety of home. Home didn't feel safe anymore and that's an awful feeling. It's bad enough to be on the street or whatever, and I'm sure it is better to have a place to go where you're warm and safe in a physical sense, but if you don't feel safe in a kind of a psychological or emotional sense, that’s tough.’ ‘But how the tables turn/ I'm aching for you now/And when I find the words/I speak some foolish vow/I'm destined just to break/Can only let you down/ And maybe it's too late/ To love me anyhow.’ ‘My perception is nobody's paying any attention to anything I'm putting up on Bandcamp. I'm purposely trying not to be too perfectionist about it, trying to let things be: like, it's fine, it's good enough good, just get it out because that's basically been the hold up on a lot of stuff is that unless it's perfect, I'm reluctant to put it out. I gotta be really happy with it so I'm having to make a deliberate conscious decision to be, like, ‘Dude, it's good enough, put it out. And even if it's not, so what? They can't all be winners. and like I have a really big hang up about just putting out quality work. I want it to be good because there's a lot of people that just learn a few chords and they're out there they're writing songs and that's great, but a lot of it's kind of unremarkable and it doesn't do anything for me. I really feel like I owe it to myself and to the songs I'm creating - to the emotions that inspire them - to do the best job I can for them. And that sounds like perfectionism maybe, but this I'm making a conscious effort to step back away from the ledge of perfectionism…’ But then he quickly lists three songs that he’d like to record or rewrite at least parts of! ‘If there's any value to my songs is probably coming from that ability to really look at it, take it apart and get into the details. I wouldn't say I obsess over lyrics but I’m like, ‘I have to get the metre right, I don't like the connotation of that's word, I gotta find another word, and this verse contradicts this verse….’ I tell him that’s why I love his work so much – there’s barely a misplaced word, or a weak line, or a bum note in anything he puts out. All the same, it pains me how much effort it costs him. It’s a great skill to use so few words – which he does – and yet to say such a lot. A lot of his songs take an idea and use it as a metaphor and extend that metaphor right the way through the song in a way that develops the ideas to further places. ‘Thank you, that's all I can say: thank you thanks for noticing. I really work hard on it to get it where I can be proud of it. I think of songwriting as a craft more than an art. I feel like I'm displaying my wares on Bandcamp. If I can write a little kind of concise 4-minute pop song that also can kind of maybe touch you, or mean something, that’s the aim. But it's all fundamentally practising: it's like the guy that you go see you see whittling or whatever. He's got a whole table at the craft show and they're all basically the same, and that's kind of what I'm doing. So perfectionism to me is in the processes. I feel like I'm a conduit as a songwriter, like these songs exist already and they come through me into reality. So I'm really not trying to serve my ego, I'm trying to serve the ideal form in a kind of Platonic sense - to birth it in the form that is the least imperfect, because in my head it’s perfect. In my head, I can hear all these tunes and they’re sung by somebody with a better voice than me, and the guitars are perfectly in tune or whatever. But anytime I get them coming out of the speakers they're less so…’ ‘Like Suicide’ is the most guitar-driven track of the collection thus far, probably having been written on that instrument with simple keys backing up the composition, abetted by real-sounding, thoughtfully supportive, intermittent drums and a touch of bass. ‘How I tried just to keep you/ How I did all I could/… I thought that it might help/ To sacrifice myself/ Like suicide’ ‘I was a pretty dark spot at the end of this relationship and I felt I had denied myself to keep it going, so the suicide here is certainly it's a metaphor. I don't want to give anybody the impression that I'm on the precipice of self-harm or any kind of shit like that, but it's really killing yourself so that something else may live, you're sticking with something that might not necessarily be for your benefit, and that's how I felt in in the relationship I was in. I was confused about what I felt, like what was good from what was not good for me, and that I've done things that hurt myself to try to benefit the relationship. I'm not trying to sound the alarm in any kind of way but it's a dark metaphor for hurting yourself for somebody else.’ ‘The only way to tell/ Is when I harm myself’ I tell him that he’s spoken so eloquently about the songs and how much they mean to him and wonder whether he feels feel like he’s expressing himself through playing as well as writing? ‘Well for me guitar is very therapeutic. Whatever I might be struggling with, when I'm playing guitar I'm focused on that, and I'm not inhabiting that space. It is absolutely a reprieve and I don't know where I would be if not for that outlet.’ The last song to be released last Spring, ‘Defeated’, is a truly great song, and I note that there’s an image of dead mountaineers next to the track on Bandcamp. ‘Yeah, you got it! You have to put an image up, that's all. There's nothing to the pictures except it won't let you upload a song without it. I guess maybe I'm too dim to just colour blank pages or whatever. Yeah, that's not the ‘Green Boots’ guy though in that picture: like, the whole mountain climbing thing, there’s bodies everywhere - I'm not going mountain climbing for all the tea in China, forget about it!’ Musically, ‘Defeated’ is almost full-on electronica, with that space within and between sounds that 80s synth pop had; there’s an overtly digital rhythm and the illusion of simplicity, spiced up by a really quite funky middle section with multiple guitars, before reverting to the single twin peaks chords where it began. ‘I know the work was hard/ I know the task was great/ I tried to do my part/ Tell me I did ok/ I know the past looms large/ I know we can’t escape/ You can’t unbreak my heart/ It doesn’t work that way.’ The singer says he’s ‘defeated’ but I am not so sure. I’m sure he feels beaten, and probably irreparably damaged, but there’s still fight in him, because the truly defeated don’t still sing. There’s a serious connection of the eponymous Everest corpse to ‘Defeated’: ‘Tried to be all/ That I could be/ Was my downfall/ Finally broke me.’ That song is about ‘how I'd given everything up I possibly could have given, and still came up short. Given to a point where you just you break yourself. Where you try so hard, even after it's, like, clearly fucked. It's done. But you're still working at it.’ ‘Tried to be all/ That you needed/ It’s not your fault/ I’m defeated now.’ I wonder - he’s not demolished but he is despondent, not quite broken but certainly cracked – and is he almost proud to be, because the ‘work was hard’? ‘It's not proud of it, but proud despite it, perhaps. Look, if it’s gonna resonate with people because they've been there and they have the same kind of feeling, that’s OK. My project is, like, recognising that I'm not alone in feeling or thinking any of this kind of stuff, and if you put it out there and there's something that we're actually connecting on with people, we've actually shared some quality emotions, shared some artistic expression, that’s good. You know, it's relatively easy to write a song that goes, ‘Baby, you drive me crazy’, but maybe someone wants to look deeper, and someone wants something that's gonna move you. That's what I'm trying to aim for. To accept my own emotions and not be afraid to put it out there.’ ‘And certainly with ‘Defeated’, that song is detailing the feeling of having put everything you got in and still coming up short. I don’t look back with a pride exactly, just a sense of – well, I feel bad that I stuck around six months longer than I should have. I had a hard time. The challenge was unlike any other I had experience of.’ The song that is maybe least like any other on the collection is called ‘Soap’ (sounding nothing like the band that gave us ‘Like Suicide’, for example, which does make pigeonholing Green Boots very difficult for those who wish to do so). Starting like some weird cousin of ‘Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ – all stripped down synth dance beats and digitised bass chords - and featuring an unusual but apt sample of 70’s US comedian Andy Kaufman, complete with backing yelps of ‘Soap’, I found the song very funny at first, thinking the conceit that soap can heal your pain and your moral failings hilarious, but perhaps the faux-Muzak musical style misled me because John explains the serious point behind it very convincingly, and a careful look at the lyrics confirms the profundity and hope the song’s message carries. ‘Categorically clean/ I been in lots of places that are gross and dark/ It has left me covered in such filth and scars/ But I see no reason I should pay in blood’ After a very lo-fi middle section, and brief interlude of heavy guitar fuzz, it comes back again with the chorus, leaving the listener in no doubt that it could easily be remixed into a worldwide hit with a K-pop style vocalist with good skin and hair. ‘I'm really beating the listener over the head with the meaning. I don't think it's my original idea, the idea that a bar of soap cannot get dirty. You can throw it in a gross pile of mud or wherever and you rinse it off under the tap, and it has the magical power to clean something once again. It cannot get dirty, that's the lyric in the song and that's really just kind of a metaphor about how I want to be. Having been through some ugly shit that I don't I don't want to think about as defining me. I don't want to take all that stuff on as part of my identity. I want to be where I'm self-cleaning, where you can things rinse off, and you're good and whole and clean. That's what I want. But not just to think of myself – I want everyone to think of themselves that way. There's lyrics in there that directly take aim at the sense of shame, that are against feeling bad about yourself.’ ‘Not saying that nobody never makes mistake/ Saying there's no reason to self-flagellate/ Sometimes we all get dirty, feel no shame’ Me being me, I take issue with the idea. I say, ‘But you can't, can you? You can't wash that shame away like you can wash your dirt away?’ John disagrees. ‘No, I think you can. I mean, it's a lot easier said than done, but, look, no-one else is in a position to do that for you. Nobody else can know if I have shame about whatever I might feel or or guilt or something - I think shame’s a lot worse than guilt because guilt might have some utility, guilt might might change your behaviour in the future, but I don't think shame does. There’s no upside to shame. Nobody else is in control of my feelings but me, that’s what I’m saying. That’s up to me to have that kind of relation to myself where I don't feel that anymore. No-one else could fix that for me. So I mean it's a philosophical song. I'm closing shows with it because it's kind of up tempo; it’s as close to a dance track I've as I've ever produced. I guess if there's a message in ‘Soap; it is it is that your relationship to yourself is up to you. Last but not least, ‘Dreamboat’ might be the sweetest of the bunch. Deeply moving, it is both the longest and slowest of the collection, with finely balanced gravelly vocals over a doleful interplay of moody, catchy lead guitar and dreamy background organ, released with surely conscious irony or optimism, or both, on Valentine’s day last year. It maybe treads less fresh ground than some of the other tracks, as lyrically it fits a country niche pretty well, but it does it with a freshness that works. If I could sleep I know I'd dream of you/ If I could cry I know I'd be so blue/ I don't know why old habits die/ But they do, but they do’ ‘The way I picture that song in my head is, imagine a cabin with the windows broken out, and the breeze blows through the curtains to the point of just being, ‘If I could cry, you know…’. ‘If I should see you in my dream tonight/ And watch you turn away without goodbye/ Each night I die another death/ It's not right, it's not right’. I say that I've been trying to piece together what the Green Boots songs so far are really like, to summarise that for other people to know what they might be getting. And one thing is that music has beauty and truth, and succour in it; that songs, melodies, instruments and words are salves to the soul. Another is that nothing is too bad it can’t be poked fun at; never take yourself so seriously that you can’t make fun of yourself. And a third, though it’s never explicit in anything released, is that there’s a lot of lies, injustice and intolerance in the world, between people one to one, and in society as a whole. ‘Yeah, I mean, I’ve had a rough couple of years. A lot of things I thought were solid turned out to be a lot softer than I imagined. So there are themes of, kind of, disappointment and loss.’ And is music therapeutic? ‘Yeah, that's part of why I started writing this. What else can I do with myself? Let’s get some of these thoughts out instead of letting them simmer. I feel a little bit like what I'm doing is kind of apart, kind of odd man out. There's a lot of indie rock bands, there's a lot of singer-songwriter types, and for sure that's kind of where I came from, but that's not what I'm doing anymore and it doesn't get me out of bed in the morning anymore, so making pop music… but like I said I'm using this Native Instruments machine, so like I write entirely different music and that's maybe what's made songwriting a little more interesting to me. I'm coming with stuff that I would never come with on the guitar. it's a little like these fun craft projects for kids where it's like you got a pipe cleaner, some paper plates and a hot glue gun - let's be creative. But the pinnacle is the song. I can add a full horn section or whatever but I'm still trying to do right by the song. It's about it's about putting the right clothes on the tune. I came up in kind of a DIY ethic kind of thing and this is DIY as it gets. I'm doing every aspect of this music so there's no other musicians at all on the Green Boots. It's totally fraudulent and falsified (laughs)! So what I found was in my in my 20s or lots of people willing to play an but a lot of them couldn't play very well and then in my 30s I know a lot of people who could play really well but they really weren't available to play they're either really too busy other projects that had a family or whatever and now I'm in my 40s now and it really is seems like shit either you're going to do it yourself or it's not going to happen.’ ‘You’re not sure if that person sitting on a rock is dying, in need of assistance, or has been dead for five years’ – a veteran Everest climber. John Hoeffleur is none of the above, but don’t pass this Green Boots by. Check them out now on Bandcamp and be one of those people who wants a better world for everyone.* * https://greenbootsmusic.bandcamp.com. Since this was written, more songs have appeared on the site. Steve Miles’ second album as European Sun will be out later in 2024.

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In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering
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In Dreams Begin Responsibilities - On Learning Not to Walk Past Suffering

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Steve Miles talks in his 'In Dreams Begin Responsibilities' column to Illinois musician and former Beauty Shop frontman John Hoeffleur about the empathy behind the songs that he has started publishing on Bandcamp under the moniker of Green Boots.

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