Sea Creatures Stared at Us and We Stared Back at Them

by the Magpies staff (with Joep and Bas)

When Joep and Bas of Wilbur and Moore Records approached us to share news about their first release, it felt like a meeting of kindred spirits. We love their fairy tale origin story, their equally charming actual story, and their mission of making connections rather than making money. They’re in it to share music that they love with other people who will love it, which is the spirit of the Magpies in a nutshell. The fact that their first release is a tribute to Jeffrey Lewis, friend of the magazine (our interview with him in our inaugural issue is still one of our favorite things we’ve published) made the prospect more perfect than ever.

Wilbur and Moore Records

“A couple of years ago we would have made up an appealing story about how two men connected with each other over their love for adventurous indie music and other experimental sounds. Men like Jonathan Moore (1978, Bend, OR, USA) and Wilbur Schwarz (1981, Vienna, Austria), for instance. They would have met coincidentally, in a small record store slash cafe in downtown New York, having a minor but friendly argument about who’s the bigger genius, Tom Waits or Frank Zappa. 

Wilbur would have taken pride in travelling the world, visiting record store after record store in the strangest places – his favourite: a small shop tucked away in a narrow alley in Bangkok. At home, and let’s be honest here, home is the basement of his parents’ mansion in the outskirts of Vienna, his shelves would have housed the most unique and pricey discs you can imagine. Jonathan, on the other hand, would have had a different dream, A dream to build a successful, trendy business. A record label to wow people like Wilbur.

Both Jonathan Moore and Wilbur Schwarz do not exist, and the sobering reality is that we have grown up, leaving fairytales like this behind. The real guys behind Wilbur & Moore Records are in fact Joep and Bas. Joep is a musician from Zeelst (NL), while Bas draws pictures in Sydney (AU). Joep and Bas – no, let’s stick with the more personal “we” – we are friends though, and share a great love for discovering new and exciting music. So much so, that in early 2022, at a distance of more than 16,000 kilometers apart, we decided to start this quirky little record label. 

We are excited to announce our first release: Sea Creatures Stared at Us and We Stared Back at Them.

Sea Creatures Stared at Us and We Stared Back at Them.

The title of the album was borrowed from Jeffrey & Jack Lewis’ song Don’t Be Upset. Sea Creatures is a collection of Jeffrey Lewis songs reimagined by 15 exciting international artists, both established and up-and-coming. You will find contributions by ZEA (Arnold de Boer of legendary Dutch punkers The Ex), Beat Radio and H. Kink (band of actress Lisa Rieffel), as well as redroot (Gainesville, FL), Old Man of the Woods (Seattle, WA), Teenage Tom Petties (Derby, UK), Dave Schoonderbeek (Toronto, Canada) and Guillaume Maupin (Brussels, Belgium). And more. Preview and purchase here.

To make things even better: all proceeds of this release will go towards picturethehomeless, a good cause selected by Jeffrey Lewis. 

Here in the offices of Tidings of Magpies, we are delighted with the album. Jeffrey Lewis’s words and voice and way of looking at the world are so strong and singular that it’s almost difficult to imagine other people singing his songs. But once you hear these tracks, you realize that the odd honesty of his lyrics, the fact that they are so personal, makes them somehow universal. We all know what it’s like to lie awake letting our anxious thoughts feed on themselves the whole night through, though few people describe the predicament with such relatable detail. We’ve all felt like escaping from our life, or starting new somewhere; we’ve all stopped to look at ourselves and wondered how we come to be the age we are, in the place we are, living the life we’re living. To hear these searching, perfect lyrics in different voices, sung with different accents by men and women at different stages in their lives, underlies the emphatic, empathetic appeal of Lewis’ music, and the reason his songs speak to us so clearly.

Not surprisingly, my favorite tracks on the album correspond to my favorite Jeffrey Lewis songs. Roll, Bus, Roll, Lewis’s song about escaping New York City to find peace at a small shack upstate, resonated with new meaning during the pandemic–I listened to it almost every day for weeks. ZEA’s version, Ryd bus ryd, is twangy, gentle, pared down, and it highlights the thoughtful loneliness of the song. Teenage Tom Petties’ fuzzy indie version of Seattle captures the lost wistful hopeful energy of trying to start over and shape your life. Henning Ohlenbusch’s version of Heavy Heart pays tribute to the sweet melancholy poetry of the original song. And Moon Moon Moon’s version of Don’t be Upset, from which the album gets its name, is quietly poignant and moving.

Taken as a whole, with its mix of musical styles, languages, accents, and voices, the album is a perfect tribute to the witty and self-deprecating, pretty and noisy, relatable and strange, hopefully despondent music of Jeffrey Lewis.

Preview and purchase Sea Creatures Stared at Us and We Stared Back at Them here.

Pictures by Bas.

Categories: art, featured, music

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