Around The Pit: A Conversation With Starlin Browning and Sean Peterson

Doug Stanford sits down with scene vets Starlin Browning and Sean Peterson, two people who have helped shape the sound of Pensacola's music scene.

Around The Pit: A Conversation With Starlin Browning and Sean Peterson
Starlin and Sean

When I moved to Pensacola in 2016 I knew nobody and had no idea what to expect from this city, which made my discovery of the thriving independent music scene here all the more shocking when I first went to a show at Chizuko.  I had been recording music as YNICORNS solo for three years at the time, and, through some very fortunate introductions, was brought in to open a few shows before taking a short hiatus from live performance.  Getting to share the stage with acts like Surrounder, Noiseheads, Blight, and If/Then in those early days here was incredible and showcased the impressive creative diversity that Pensacola had to offer. I was enamored.

Just as I felt on the cusp of becoming a part of the scene with which I had so quickly fallen in love, we got hit with the pandemic of 2020 that shut down so many good things, including, most tragically for me, Chizuko.  For a moment I feared that the scene I so desperately wanted to be a part of was dead, but the drive to rebuild a community to support the brilliant musicians here was very much alive.

As people returned to normal life we got the new Handlebar and with it a music scene that has eclipsed the one I found in 2016.  I am honored every day that I get to perform with and for friends on a stage built by this community.  There’s nothing I love more than hearing my friends belt the music plucked from their hearts on any given night at this venue.  This is the scene I’ve been looking for my entire life.

I have a history in DIY music production. I recorded dozens of albums in Virginia for friends, for bands I loved, and for myself.  I struggled to find a place on the stage in the music scenes where I grew up. Playing unconventional music and being a socially awkward kid made it a challenge to establish an audience, so playing a role behind the scenes was a natural evolution. It’s made me so curious about the people that support the artists in our scene and give them a platform to reach listeners beyond Tarragona St.

Sean Peterson is a veteran of the Pensacola music scene, moving here in 1997 and ingraining himself in a variety of scenes from blues to experimental music as a bassist, noisemaker, and mastering artist.  I’m lucky to have roped him into being a full time member of my band as of this year, and you’ve undoubtedly heard his work on a vast array of recordings from artists I love - Surrounder, Hopout, Paid to Pretend, *cough* YNICORNS *cough*, the list goes on.  Sean is one of the first people I met in the music scene here and helped me find my way into the community.

Starlin Browning came to Pensacola in 2018 but we didn’t meet until 2023 when my band started playing at Handlebar and I saw more and more artists I followed showing up in his studio on instagram.  He plays in many bands including but not limited to Palmmeadow, Snow Halo, and of course his own band, Starlin.  His work with Faux/Fox, Katie Dineen, GLSNR, Glazed Eyes, and a seemingly endless list of the best of the best in this town is some of the best recording work I’ve heard not just in Pensacola, but anywhere.

I invited them to come to dinner in March of 2024 to talk about independent music production in Pensacola and came away with nearly two hours of fantastic conversation about music recording, the evolution of how bands release songs, the history of Pensacola’s DIY/independent music scene, and the value of the community that develops around this thing we all love so much. 

Doug: The whole point of me asking to talk to you is because you guys have shaped the sound of so much of the Pensacola bands that I love.  I don't remember what the first show I went to here was, but it was definitely at Chizuko and I was immediately blown away. I think it might've been the Noiseheads show that Nick [Gray] let me open for with Surrounder. And I was just like, holy fuck, this town has this kind of music here? What? It's ridiculous. There's no reason this town should have a music scene like this for independent, creative, experimental music. And I didn't know that Sean was already integral to that. Starlin, what year was it that you moved here again?

Starlin: I moved here in summer of 2018. September, I think, or no, August... and I had just gone through a whole lot... as far as sort of uprooting my life, I had just quit a studio that I thought I was gonna work in forever. I quit a band that had just gotten signed and was touring. There were just a lot of changes and I took a huge left turn and moved to a place where I didn't know anyone and basically spent the first three months with all of my money that I had saved up fishing just trying to like, you know, not think about where I had just left <laughs>. But funny enough, Sean, when I started working at Blues [Angel Music], everyone was like, do you know Sean? You need to know Sean.

Starlin in his tracking and control rooms
Starlin in his tracking and control rooms

Doug: Hilariously enough that's exactly what I was told when I moved here.

Sean: I remember my first knowledge of you, Doug, was through Racheal, my wife. Because you had done a pitch at the place she was working, she told me that she had met someone in video production. And then you and I had...

Doug: <Interrupting> we had coffee at Fosko, I think, right? And you told me about Precubed and you're like, you have to meet Aaron [Finlay]. And full circle we're playing with Precubed next month at Vinyl.  So meeting you, Sean, for me it was really like, I want to stay here. I don't wanna leave this town if there's people and bands like this here. When did you move here Sean?

Sean: I moved to Pensacola in 1997 after college at Troy University. At the time, Sluggos was a two story building on Palafox downtown. You would go up the stairs, the stage was on the second floor... The most memorable show I saw at that spot was Soul Coughing. You remember that band?

Doug: I remember that band!  Yeah, what's his name, Mike ...Doughtry?

Sean: Yeah, Doughty, who is from Pensacola.

Doug: What?!  That's crazy.

Sean: That's Pensacola in action! And that show was one of their last shows before they completely broke up... it was like 1998 I wanna say.  But anyway, yeah, I feel like I was late to a lot of the Pensacola scene. Like I knew of people like Kent Stanton long before I had ever met him, and there was just a lot of history in Pensacola, bands like The Headless Marines used to be in town, This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, the punk scene.

Starlin: I have a couple theories on the music scene here, actually. It's very evident to anybody who spends any time here that there is a large hardcore scene here. Not only hardcore in the sense of like, you know, "we wear white chucks" and like, "don't fuck" kind of thing. But like, there's a lot of aggressive music that's made here. And my theory on that is there's a lot of misplaced kids from the military that have a lot of angst, like for instance, my buddy José [DelRio] from Vagrants. He moved here from Washington State to this like super hot, like half Alabama, half Florida, really weird place.

His dad was in the military and then he started making hardcore music 'cause he was really upset about that, and then turns out there's a ton of kids in this area that have that same experience that all moved here because of the military... and then the creatives out of that are making this really angsty music 'cause they've basically come from all over the country and have been put in this really weird, like, hot tropical climate and they're pissed off about it <laughs>.

On top of that, there's a huge young scene here... which, and I'm still kind of working on trying to figure out, I don't know. I think it's really cool trying to, you know, figure out sort of the sociology of where all of that sort of springs from and like trying to see what kind of, you know, environmental factors or zeitgeist or social things that are going on at that time to create something like that... but there's a ton of bands that are from 15 to 19 years old and I've been working with a lot of 'em. It's really interesting, like watching all of them sort of influence one another and they all go to each other's shows, which is really cool, and then they all are making pretty decent music. Like, I really haven't heard a lot of bands that I'm like, yikes.

Sean: I think the military has something to do with it. I also think the heavily religious nature of our area and people reacting to growing up in that culture makes some of them kind of rebel as well. Santa Rosa County used to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for most churches per capita. It's huge.

I think that's one of the reasons why we've had kind of a more hardcore scene is there's, you know, the military and religion, which, what better to revolt against? But that's how I first became aware of Pensacola as a whole, the hardcore punk scene.  Scott Cowgill was the lead singer of The Headless Marines, and then fronted a few other bands in Pensacola... Wooden Horse being the one after that.  These were all bands in the late eighties, early nineties that when I was in high school and early college were like, bands that made Pensacola what it was. So I feel like I came in on the tail end of that.

There was a bar called The Night Owl, and that's where like, Green Day and Bad Brains and all these bands back in the day played.  I came in right at the tail end of The Night Owl, I never saw a show there but I know of all these legendary shows. I was kind of scared to go there, you know what I mean? <laughs> Like, that was before my time. That was the place where everything went down.  End of the Line Cafe, before it was End of the Line was Van Gogh's which is right next to 309 [Punk Project]... that whole little area has been pretty central to the scene for quite a long time.

Starlin: I was curious what made you lean into mastering, Sean? Because if I had to pick one of the major three things of what we do - which I feel like is tracking, mixing and mastering - mastering would be the one that I would not choose. I'm so obsessed with like, getting in on the ground level of things.

And I don't mean to, but I always accidentally become part of someone's band in a way if I'm working with them, if that makes sense. I'm very aware and very careful of the relationship when it comes to engineering versus producing versus playing on your record and that kind of thing. It's funny to me how many people I record and then they'll ask me if I'll play with them live. Like, it just happens to me a lot <laughs>. I don't even consider myself some crazy good musician or anything like that. I'm not that technically gifted. I didn't go to school for guitar or anything like that.

I feel like this is kind of my superpower... I'm obsessed with songs and so if someone's like, well I wanna put background vocals on this, but I don't know what to do, I'll just sit there and listen to it until I'm like, I have an idea. You know? And that's kind of what I've been trying to hone, is being able to come up with stuff that can help craft this thing and make it a bigger thing. It just sort of happens, and that's magical.

Sean: That's where I want to be with mastering. And it's funny, that's kind of how I feel about it - helping to craft a song into a bigger thing. But in terms of my progression to mastering, I think a lot of it is just opportunity. In the last few years I got to make a few records where I did participate very much in the the meat and potatoes of the creation of the record in terms of tracking and mixing it. It was grueling but yeah, I love those moments... but they're emotionally, physically, mentally grueling for sure.

It was all around seven or so years ago... that's when I had my Soundcraft console. And I had an idea of what kind of studio space I was gonna put together and how I wanted to do it, and I had somebody help me out, in terms of the financial stuff. Like we were able to get this place for a year or two, but it was a lack of work and I didn't really have the drive to go after it the way that I wanted to.

I bounce around a lot. I always have. So it made sense to just progress through from one part of this to another. For me, the idea of focusing on mastering versus track mixing was natural, and at the same time I was realizing that options for mastering here just didn't exist.

Sean analyzing a mix
Sean in his mastering suite

Doug: I've been so interested in talking to you guys about the Pensacola music industry because I've done album recording - not nearly to the scale that you guys have - but I'm familiar with, you know, DIY music production, the challenges that come with that, trying to work with bands you love because you love doing it and trying to find a way to make a career out of it, but also like the critical role you play in developing and supporting a music scene like ours.

I mean, I look at how bands like Palmmeadow and GLSNR are using Spotify and the sort of more contemporary way in which music is released. I'm a very album oriented rock guy. Like, all of my favorite albums, I will listen to start to finish, on repeat for weeks sometimes.

Starlin: I think I've influenced both of them on how they're releasing music...

Doug: To be more album oriented?  I was just talking to Tyler [West, Palmmeadow] and he said he was working on an EP and I was like thank god!

Starlin: <laughs> I don't... we'll see about that.

Doug: <laughs>

Sean: You're a singles kind of person.

Starlin: It depends.

Doug: Interesting.

Starlin: I love albums. My own personal music is album based. So, I mean, if that tells you anything, you know, I'm not, I'm not a singles person at all. I think for a person like Tyler or a band like GLSNR, both of them who are incredibly creative but aren't necessarily as completely sold on exactly what they want to sound like yet.

Doug: Interesting.

Starlin: It doesn't really make sense in my opinion, especially in the world that we live in right now, to make an album when you've got all of this, sort of genre bending thing going on. And I'm very into that. I mean, I understand that Led Zeppelin IV has these hugely different songs on it. I get that. And I say that a lot. And even my own music has genre bending.

But I feel like, like with a band like GLSNR, like if you listen to some of their stuff or if you listen to Tyler's band, both of those projects are so creative that I don't think that they should limit themselves in trying to write an album that like Pitchfork would review and be like, "this band has found their sound" versus the algorithm oriented world that we live in. If you can keep content in people's faces for the next six months versus just the next month, why would you do the one month versus the six? Because if you can say, I've got seven songs recorded, then you can not only post a song a month for the next seven months, you can also do so much promo around that.

You can do photos around that. You could do merch around that. You could do shows around every single release. "We're having a single release night", "New GLSNR song came out on Tuesday, come see us do it live Friday night". Like, there's so many options and so many things that you could build around what you're doing versus just putting out all 10 songs and then a "we'll see you next year!" kind of thing. For bands like that, I just feel like it doesn't make a lot of sense to focus on an album if they're still growing like that.

Doug: I have a quick follow up question to that... The reorientation towards singles, especially in rock music seems like a pretty modern experience for the way that music's being released, for the way music's being consumed. I hear about it more often in terms of pop music, like making shorter songs you can release more of to increase your revenue and all that stuff. But I mean, locally speaking, especially in the context of a band finding itself and developing its own voice... at the end of a run of singles, do you think that they are eventually compliable into an album that could be released? Or do you think that it's a model of "we're gonna release singles then once we find our sound, we'll go in, we'll do five songs... we'll do an EP, we'll do a ten song LP". Those singles, are they forever singles? Or does it make sense to try and wrap them into something bigger when you've got enough?

A portion of Starlin's studio equipment
Selections from Starlin's instrument collection

Starlin: I think there's a couple of ways to look at that. So first of all, as far as like, are they forever singles? You can look at a band like Big Thief that's released the same song three different times, each one's a different version of that. Some as singles, some on an album. All of them have really high plays because people love that song. So you can look at it from that aspect.

Secondly, if you wanna talk about why it makes more sense for like the three songs that GLSNR recorded with me, they wanted to release one song and release the other two as one thing. I was like, "you shouldn't do that" because they released their first two songs that they did with José [DelRio] I think at the same time... and one of their songs had twice as many plays as the other one.  You know why? 'cause it was the first song in the two.

You're splitting your plays... I was like, if you release this one this month, you play a show around it, you make an event about it, you make a whole party... it's literally a party. And then you go make a party online. You make a party in person. You make a party with merch. I mean, you literally are trying to get everyone to buy into it: "Holy shit, this is an awesome thing that's happening. How can we be a part of this?" And so if you split all those up, then you can have that many plays on each single song that you do. You could have all the stuff coming out incrementally and you can really, you know, create a marketing campaign around it, as lame as that sounds <laughs>.

But that's where my head's at. If they do want to put out an album, I think that comes later. I think that comes when they have an established audience that's ready for an album.

Doug: Sean, what's your take on all this? Especially in the context of streaming platforms and music today that's being released locally for DIY bands, for bands that are, you know, using show money to record a song at a time or in YNICORNS’ case, we're trying to save up this year so we can do like four or five songs to go on an EP or an LP or something like that.

Sean: I don't think there is a specific correct answer, but if any of my clients ask me what I recommend, it's usually right in line with what Starlin just said. Like, I really think that the concept of an album as being the only way it has to be done... is kind of dated. I think albums are still very justified if they exist in that form, if they are conceived in that form. If that song has to be heard with this song to understand the whole, then it's completely justifiable. But other than that, no. I think, again, if a band has three or four songs, I tell them, "Hey, record those three or four songs, release 'em separately, release one, then release another one down the line". People's attention spans aren't, you know, they're not gonna listen to four or five songs in a row. They're gonna listen to a song. 

Putting out ten songs in a year versus one record in a year, I think is more viable for a band now. Unless it's a presentation that tells a story over the whole length of the record... I think that's completely justifiable. But I think that is an asset to bands to be able to say, "Hey, I can record this single, this song. I can focus on it, I can record it, mix it, have it mastered, create a promotion around it".

They could save up for each song. It's way more affordable. And for me, like, that was another, another big reason why I chose to kind of get into mastering was I kind of felt that most bands were getting into the idea of we're gonna do it ourselves, or we've got this friend who's gonna do it for us, or we've got this guy, we've got Starlin, who's this killer fucking producer mixer. And I felt that my possible contribution to all that could be mastering.

Sean mastering in his studio
Sean analyzing a mix

It was like, here's something that could be an affordable process for a band who decided to do it completely on their own, who didn't wanna spend $5,000 tracking and mixing a record, but could afford to spend, you know, less than a grand having the whole thing mastered. That was me wanting to contribute to the process, the way it's evolving.

I really think we're in a singles culture for the most part. I think people want to hear your name constantly. If you're looking to get heard by people, having something new come out every couple months is gonna be way more effective than having one ad campaign to push one record that comes out one time every two or three years <laughs>, you know what I mean? Like, make singles, put 'em out all the time!

Doug: So, my experience of being a musician has always been very hobby, part-time. I just love doing it. I can't stop doing it. So I don't think about music for myself or for YNICORNS as a business model, or like a thing that I think will be anything more than a record I love to listen to... that I'm proud of... that I get to make with my friends and play for people. Like now I'm lucky enough to get to play it live, which is something I truly never thought would happen with this project. So that's what I do with music. I don't have a lot of insight into how, and I keep going back to GLSNR and Palmmeadow because I'm friends with Tyler and I've been following what you've been doing with him and what the band's been doing I guess since their first show... and also GLSNR. I mean, GLSNR is just so dominant in our music scene... everybody loves them for very good reasons.

Drew and Micah, GLSNR
GLSNR | image courtesy Moth Edge

Starlin: What's big about that band is people buy into who they are, maybe more than their music.

Doug: Which is awesome. They mastered exuding identity. And they got merch right from the very first minute...

Starlin: <Interrupting> Dude, they had thongs for sale at the show Saturday night. I was like, What? Guys? What's going on, dudes? What's going on?

Doug: <Laughs> When you're working with these bands, are they approaching this from a standpoint of "we have this song today, this is the song we have... let's keep doing this 'cause we are a growing band"? Or are they thinking about it from the perspective of, "we are trying to build something sustainable that can become enough of a business machine that it can fund itself", that they could, like, tour off of streaming revenue or merch sales. Or more generally, locally speaking in Pensacola, are bands like these thinking strategically when they're recording?

Starlin: Strategically when they're recording? Uh, well, I don't think they're thinking that. I hope they're not thinking about that at all. I hope they're thinking about their friends and their local scene.

Doug: That's the answer I had hoped for more than anything.

Starlin: So, yeah. Like, I think a lot of this, as far as if you wanna keep using those two bands as a model, which I think are both great representatives.... Tyler and I have a way different relationship because we were in a band together, Shuggy, back in the day. We're very close in some interesting ways, we kinda have a brother relationship in lot of ways and we can say things to each other that you can't say to just anybody, you know?

Tyler and Starlin in Shuggy
Shuggy | image courtesy Moth Edge

GLSNR, they came to me honestly because José [DelRio] was too busy for them, which, at the end of the day, I think that the two songs that they made with José were really good. And I think that it took me the three songs that we did to really figure out how the fuck to even do that band. That band was really hard for me, on the back end.

Doug: Dude, they sound fucking great.

Starlin: It was hard because most of the time it's rare for me to not have, like... I always consider it like chess... I can see the final move way before we're at that point. But like, with them, it was really interesting because they weren't so sure exactly how they wanted any of this stuff to sound. And then they were looking at me like, what do you think? And I'm like, well, I don't really know either, because like you're telling me that you're a shoegaze band, but you aren't a shoegaze band. You have a pop-emo drummer. You have a bass player that is basically what would normally be all the guitars because Micah [Peck] is not your traditional guitar player. He's the only shoegaze part of that band and it's just all of, you know, as many pedals as he can get away with, in a wonderful way.

He does a lot of tapping one note or two note arpeggio kind of things that he does on top of the vocals. I mean, he's basically an alternate melody all the time, so the drum and bass in that band are those songs. And then when you put Micah on top of it, which is just sort of a wall of sound, like a ton of delays and chorus and effects. And then you've got Drew, which is the most unlikely person to like, get up... but when he gets up, it's like, this man has star power.

Sean: I've never seen someone more awkward yet more owning it.

Starlin: Yes! It's pretty interesting. Like, 'cause he's the most unassuming, most humble dude. You just fall in love with him every time he opens his mouth. He fucking fixes dryers and refrigerators. That's what that man does. He goes so hardcore. He's like talking about how much he loves fixing things and we've made a connection on that, 'cause I love fixing things. But when you put all those elements together, it's like really... I don't know what this is supposed to sound like, man.

Starlin mixing in his control room
Starlin playing back new tracks from Katie Dineen

I told Micah this, and I think I told a couple other members of the band their last song that we just put out [High Hopes]... I really felt like I kind of unlocked who they were. I feel like I finally figured it out, it was the one that like, came together. And so, like with that band in particular, I think that they're a really incredible talent. And I think so much of their talent is in a social aspect, which is really interesting.

Sean: But I mean, that's where, that's where the real shit happens, man. I mean, music, like, it's so ancillary to like... the real stuff, you know what I mean? Like, it is that social thing, that identity of a band that makes them special. It's not what they're doing on their instruments. It kind of is. But I mean, but you're right. They kind of have that thing that like... people love it, it's above what they're doing musically. It's this identity that they have that whenever they have shows, I've just noticed it... people are all about it at the GLSNR shows.

Starlin: You know, because they're their friends. They're like, that dude could be my best friend. And that's all it takes. There's no cool guys in that band. There's no dude up there where you're like, I don't know if I fuck with him. <Laughs> Like, any of those dudes, you could call them and be like, "Hey man, I got a flat tire". And they're like, "Where you at?"

Sean: I think a band can have the ability to bring a scene into focus. In any scene, no matter what it is, whether it's like the hardcore scene or the country scene or whatever, there always seems to be a band that brings their particular scene together where everybody's on the same page, and that's always where all the energy and excitement is for sure.

Starlin: And it makes other people care. And that's the opposite sometimes of something I preach to Tyler, 'cause Tyler has superpowers that he doesn't know he has… but they come out when he's not thinking about it, they just come out and they exude from him.

He naturally is so gifted in so many ways. But I've had to preach to him almost, "Dude, if you're not your biggest fan, no one else will be". You have to believe in what you're doing and everyone else will be like, "Damn". He believes so much. I believe too, and that's what I think GLSNR has, is they believe in what they're doing so much that everyone else feels that.

Sean: It's funny, like, I just listen to the way you talk about it... you speak about Tyler as an individual and GLSNR as this collective, singular thing. And I, for me, I spent so many years as a bass player, like before I was a freelance audio guy [for mastering and video], I was a freelance bass player. I just would play with whoever I could. I could play the instrument fairly well and knew music well enough that I could play with a lot of people. And so it was something that I did a lot of; playing music with a lot of people is great, but seeing a band that's able to do their thing and coalesce the sound that could not possibly exist without that band... those ingredients.

Starlin: It's funny you point that out. 'Cause I think the difference is none of the dudes in GLSNR would be anything without each other, versus Tyler, who will always be Palmmeadow <laughs>.

Sean: Fucking beautiful.

Starlin: I think I find a lot of beauty in both.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais
Beaujolais by Louis Jadot

Doug: A while back I was talking with a friend of mine from the video world about film movements throughout the years - French New Wave, New Queer Cinema, Dogme 95 - and it's crazy how like movements that define these major turning points in the history of cinema were contained to these five to ten year periods a lot of the time, where like four or five people were in the right place at the right time and everybody was just kinda on the same wavelength and putting out a ton of work.

I feel like music scenes are similar to that, too. Like, I feel like we are in one of those bubbles right now, because it’s post-pandemic, we've got new Handlebar, we've got all these new bands. I feel like this is a moment in the creative music scene in Pensacola right now.

Sean: As far as I can tell, it's always kind of been like the things that y'all were saying in there about y'all's observations of the current Pensacola music scene. I feel have been the scene for the 20+ years that I've been inside of it.

Doug: And have you noticed, has it been a pattern of like, there's a handful of years where it's like a group of bands are kind of doing a thing and then it sort of dies down, then comes back? Or was that just a phenomenon because of the pandemic?

Sean: No, I think it just happens that way. I think just in terms of overall trends it's just the way things work. You know, there are bands that come up and kind of do something and then go away. Then something else comes along.

Doug: My perception, and I don't know how accurate or well informed my perception of the Pensacola music scene is because I have bands I really like, I have bands I really admire and I basically just go to shows at Handlebar.... you know, there's hard bands, there's weird bands, there's bands that kinda land across the indie spectrum, and everything in between. That seems to be like the vibe of what's happening right now in Pensacola stylistically, but more than anything I feel like there's an overwhelming sense of inclusiveness in our scene, which I really love.

Do you think that we will see deeper effort towards fighting for identity and human rights? There's so many amazing bands that have opinions and members that are all over the spectrum of everything from politics to identity to gender... and it feels so welcomed and supported, which is beautiful. How does the future of Florida <nervous laugh> influence the future of our music scene locally?

God, as I was asking that the question got bigger and more difficult to answer the entire time <laughs>.

Starlin: <Laughs> I've been talking with Robert [Goodspeed] for a while. I think Robert is one of the absolute most important people in this scene. Hands down.  I mean, he is The Handlebar. That dude, I mean, I told my dad the other day when he met him for the first time... I was like, "he keeps me and I keep him." It's funny what I would do for that dude and the things that I've talked about with him, like where his mind is, which is very interesting.

He's probably one of the smartest guys I know in such a funny way. Dude, like the things that he's taught me, even from how to talk guys down to get better deals on guitars on Craigslist, to him talking about ways to talk to agents to get better deals on booking big bands in town and stuff like that.

Robert's got a lot of vision for things that could be in the future of our music scene, but, they're things I don't want to say out loud 'cause they might disappear, like a dream <laughs>.

Doug: I'll have to try to talk to him myself about that, instead of just bugging him about openings for YNICORNS at Handlebar <laughs>.

Starlin: When I was in college... what you were talking about earlier [before dinner], like this was the first music scene that you feel you've really been a member of... I had one of these in college.

Doug: That's awesome.

Starlin: Doesn't exist there anymore.  It's sad, it just went away... but it was like four or five years of community.

Doug: It's a beautiful period where people make stuff that will affect you forever and people remember that forever.  And like the community that I feel so lucky to be a part of right now... it's amazing how important that is, I think, to all of our lives. I mean like beyond the music that it is. I mean, these are our friends.

As I was reflecting on our conversation the next morning, I was listening to an interview with Raphael Warnock about the upcoming election season. He talked about the value of faith communities for people and the benefits of having an institution that draws people in weekly to participate together.  He described an epidemic of loneliness in our country that leaves people less happy and more depressed–an experience I’ve felt too many times, especially in recent history.  He says, “human connection is healing”.

While you’re unlikely to find me in a church, you will find me at Handlebar when my friends are on stage.  The human connection of our music scene is healing, and the people like Starlin and Sean who support the artists drawing us through the doors are the community leaders we need.

You can follow Sean’s mastering and production audio work at @pensacolamastering and @oil_can on instagram and Starlin’s recording work at @starlinb.

Gnocchi and Focaccia
Brown butter sage gnocchi with crumbled prosciutto and focaccia

For those interested, I can’t recommend Andrew Rea’s brown butter sage gnocchi enough, which I added crumbled prosciutto to this time around and it should be legally required.  The focaccia recipe is by Alexandra Stafford, to which I added rosemary, freshly grated nutmeg, clove, and allspice. Don't neglect the full 3-4 hour second proofing–while it was delicious it didn't rise as much as I'd hoped for after only an hour.  Starlin brought a bottle of Beaujolais from Louis Jadot that paired beautifully with the dinner and Sean brought a few cans of Odd Colony’s Moonbeam Dark Czech Lager that were a delicious apéritif.