Bedtimes is first and foremost the performing name for musician Conor Grebel. Bedtimes is health. Bedtimes is peace of mind. Bedtimes is the natural world calling loudly through the voice of your mind, speaking directly to you, the you that was there before the rest of the world took place. Find yourself alone in your room, sink deep into the still blue waters of your mind, and let in these healing messages of love.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Hello, my name is Conor Grebel. I’m a multidisciplinary artist, gardener, explorer, and musician living in San Francisco. I was born in California, lived most of my life in Wisconsin, and worked and lived in Japan after college. I am often the loudest person in the room—a man on the bus once dubbed me (affectionately, I hope) “the boombox”. For whatever reason, my life has been riddled with bouts of anxiety, depression, self doubt, and more anxiety. Recently, I’ve been making amazing strides towards a better life, full of self love and a healthy understanding of the world. As my mental state improves, my artistic output and motivations grow. Before I often imagined myself making animations, music, bizarre light shows, music videos…now I find myself in a place where I just do them.
I can’t really identify what type of artist I am—I don’t directly follow any medium or musical genre…Rather, I follow a feeling. My work ranges from woodworking to animation, music to interactive installations. At the time of creative conception, I allow inspiration to guide my form or technique. I don’t think I will ever be considered an expert in any particular craft or field, but I hope to become skilled in making myself happy with whatever means I decide to employ.
How has living in San Francisco affected your work? San Francisco is definitely an interesting place. But, honestly, I can’t judge how much influence is due to living in SF or due to progress I’ve made through therapy. Maybe I’m becoming liberated from my own mind and, as I break free, I am running excitedly in every direction. It’s also possible that the accepting nature of this city makes me feel free to do whatever freaky thing that pops into my head. San Francisco is home to a lot of amazing artists experimenting in unknown fields, and I feel as though I’m surrounded by all of them. I owe a lot of inspiration to the people I see every day—my friends and co-workers, kicking butt in their own amazing way. Sometimes they’re so amazing that it’s daunting, but I just remind myself that’s not the right way to react to it. 😉
I feel I should mention that until I moved to San Francisco, I felt suffocated by small-town Wisconsin. I was convinced that the big thinking, super-culture exposure of a big city would solve my frustrations and reservations as an artist, but now that I’ve moved to a metropolitan area, I feel an undeniable urge to move somewhere very separated, where I can be alone with my work. Now that I’m starting to understand myself more, I feel that my initial desire to move to a big city was misguided, though not WRONG—I was just looking for an external solution to an internal problem. My most recent desire, which is to move to a farm along the coast is an unrelated, exciting, and recent aspiration.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Many of my inspirations come from physical experiences rather than emotional ones. Recently, my experiences in nature have been my largest influence. I know that sounds vague…I think I can elaborate with a few examples. A recent video I worked on was inspired by the experience of walking in a dark foggy forest with a flashlight pointed at me. It’s moments like these, interacting with the natural world, that plant the seeds of creation. Another inspiration came when I was near a body of water, watching the distorted images reflected on the surface. It’s a simple everyday thing, but when you fixate on it you see that the fractal patterns of shadows are getting cast from the ripples, and the refraction from the sun gets torn and split into different colors on the floor. Also, you know that thing that happens when you ALMOST close your eyes all the way and look at a light—when your eyelashes warm and stretch the light into long loopy beams? I want to recreate that: add a story to it. Something along the lines of unlocking some visible connection of energy between light bulbs.
Another huge influence in my life are my friends and collaborators, Phil Reyneri, Bradley Munkowitz, and Mike Williams. When I first met Phil and saw the work he does, it opened me up to the different ways I could experience art. I think it’s an influence I don’t talk about much, but it really struck me when I first moved to San Francisco. Bradley Munkowitz (GMUNK) has shown me a lot about trust, positivity, and design; I’d say his drive and productivity are a constant source of influence, and there are notable skills and styles that I would not have gained were it not for him. Mike Williams is an old friend, roommate, and a constant collaborator—we are in a similar point in our artistic career, and simply knowing we can work on together is an inspiration to do anything.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Currently, a few friends and I are preparing to build three art installments for a music festival in Wisconsin. This music festival, RCFS, is an intimate event, founded by my friend Whilden Hughes. Though small, RCFS is often the highlight of the year. The music and environment is amazing, with everyone involved trying to push the art to the next level. With no budget and ultimate creative freedom, it’s a platform to use shoestring ingenuity and invention. All three of our proposals were approved, and can be seen here. As well as completing these art installations, I will be performing at the festival.
After I return from that, I’m helping with the live stage design/visuals for Giraffage, working on visual effects for a short film, and creating a music video for a local musician. Musically, starting in September, I will be writing new songs again. I look forward to a new sound, and am also opening myself up to collaborating with local musicians / vocalists / producers.
What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? There are a few hidden coves along the northwest coast that I frequent. Sometimes, when the tide is low, you gain access to parts of the beach that nobody sets foot on –you have to get wet and cold but…the payoff is amazing. I love the dark wet stone against the tan sand. One place that has been pulling me recently is the countryside of Japan. A few times I’ve made myself take trains out into literally nowhere in central Japan, It is by far the most beautiful scenery I’ve witnessed.
I have a fantasy scenario where I blindly take trains and busses around the countryside of Japan with minimal recording / performing gear. I spend two months getting lost and recording / writing every night, completing an entire album with sounds and inspirations from the journey. At the end of the trip I would like to go to Tokyo and attempt to perform my set a few times at some urban venues. It’s a fantasy I’m sure I will make real in the next few years. Other than those two environments, I’ve made my ROOM an amazing place to be. Its my stress free zone, full of plants, candles, victorian gems, and pianos. It’s my safe place, my source of peace and happiness…hence the name “Bedtimes”.
What were you like in high school? Hahaha…WELL. Very different than now…yet still very much the same. I was, much more than now, a dichotomy of two opposite people. I was very insecure, had low confidence, was concerned with how I look, and unsure of myself as an artist. At the same time I was very forward, dressed RIDICULOUS, thought big, and drew ALL the time. It seemed for every crazy fearless thing I did, I had a part of me that was very afraid to do it. I was bullied a LOT, I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin…and to say I didn’t fit in would be an understatement. My school didn’t have art classes either, just a study hall where stoners would get credit for drawing freely. Which is fine, but it offset my knowledge of art as a viable life choice for a while. I was friends with teachers more consistently than students, I was in a band with a few of them. They would sometimes write me passes to miss math class (it was a free period for one teacher), and we would just stroll the “campus” and talk, or play guitar. In some areas I was making waves; varsity chess player, founder and leader of bluegrass club, founder of creative writing club, even taught the computer science II class one semester (per request of the original instructor). Other than that, I was an F-D student. If I didn’t make a real effort my last semester I would have definitely failed. I think being friends with a lot of the teachers helped greatly…probably the only reason I got into college. (College is a waste of life anyways, not that I knew it at the time.)
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? I think people know I’m sensitive…and I know I’m sensitive…and for these reasons people are probably reserved in reacting to my work, and I am consciously limiting my presence when other people are experiencing my work. To be perfectly honest, its not people’s reactions that worry me as much as my reaction to them reacting to it. Does that make sense? Sometimes I read into reactions a bit too intensely. Sometimes people say they like it in the wrong way, and my mind will spurt all these insecure paranoid thoughts at me. I know its not me, its this poorly molded image of myself, its something I’m making progress in right now. I have a point to make on this topic…but first I’ll share a few positive reactions that have stuck out: My therapist once told me that rock music puts you in one headspace, classical music puts you in a different head space, and jazz puts you in another one. Your (Bedtimes) music is a whole new mental space, and I enjoyed going there. Another friend also told me that when listening to my music, it was as if travelling to a new place, her mind went soaring. That’s really what I want…I want my music to be a unique experience that sets your mind on a creative loophole, a relaxing mental place that lets you view life and the physical world from a birds eye view. Regardless…the thing I’ve learned to be important is not to dwell in anybody’s reaction to your work. You will have a mix of people loving or hating what you do no matter where you go. The motivation and enjoyment of your music or art should be born and exist within you. If people see it and enjoy it as well, that’s fine, let that happen, but don’t desire it. At one point I got music into a place where it better reflected my sketchbook than anything else. I was writing only what I wanted to write, I had no deadlines, no desire to share it, no judgements, and no goals. It was purely masturbatory, and I didn’t care if anybody else heard it because I loved listening and playing it so much. When you start thinking in terms of “how popular can this sound be”, or “when will I be playing big shows”…then your head is in the wrong place.
What other musicians/bands are you interested in right now? So…my music taste is pretty terrible…I listen to almost everything. It’s not uncommon for somebody to detest a song I put on. 100% guilty pleasure, without the guilt. I’ll keep this one short, with the understanding that I’m listing these artists because theres nothing more to say other than I am in love with them: Lindsay Lowend, Hundred Waters, Poter Elvinger, Fishing, マクロスMACROSS 82-99, Knight One, Maths Time Joy, Jon Hopkins, Jungle, and Wife. Some of these are recent fads, some are forever loves.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? On the film/animation/design side I really couldn’t ask for anything more than what I have. I’m surrounded by amazing people that inspire me in all those fields, all of them I collaborate with normally. All I wish I had was more time.
Musically I’m still very much finding my voice…and I am VERY open to collaboration. I haven’t been making music for very long, and it was good for me to do one solo album, but I think I would enjoy a duo or band. In fact I really wish I could redo all the songs I’ve already written and play them with a band. I enjoy live performance a lot, and I feel so much is lost in the limitations of MIDI controllers. If I could find somebody with similar goals and taste, I think we would really get some amazing work done. Honestly it has be somebody who inspires me; I want to jam with somebody who can musically excite me as much as I do them. It is a very sensitive and particular mold to fit, but I’m keeping myself open.
What do you want a viewer to walk away with after hearing your music? I don’t necessarily want somebody to dance, don’t necessarily want them to feel ecstatic or sad either…I want people to listen to it and have their mind go on a journey. A creative tangent from your world that puts you in a mental place high above you. I try to write sounds and melodies that put your mind somewhere comfortable in outer space. If there was a dark jungle floating in outer space, floating above an array of beautiful planets cascading backwards, and in the middle of the jungle was a large victorian bed where you could lay down and view the immediate and distant universe vignetted by large jungle plants…and my music brought you there..I would be very happy. I want the song to end and then suddenly you notice what what your eyes were pointed at. Most of all I want people to have goosebumps, and I want them to be inspired to make something. Of course…I’m only saying it would be nice if thats the reaction people would get. 😉