Real bowerbirds like to make things and plant flowers, all as part of an elaborate mating ritual. So it's probably no accident that the critically acclaimed fold duo of the same name also like to make beautiful things surrounded by nature.
They are currently in the process of building a DIY solar-powered recording studio in the woods of North Carolina.
From a repurposed lifeboat turned solar-powered music studio to a high-tech fully professional studio powered by the sun, this isn't the first time we've seen musicians stepping up for clean energy. But it might be the first time that it's been done as a grassroots effort being funded by their fans. It's also the first time I've seen such efforts connected to the very simple idea of owning less so you can make more:
For us, nothing was more gratifying for us than the process of bringing a song or a painting out of nothingness into fruition. In order for us to spend as much time as possible on our creative endeavors, we learned to live on less and teach ourselves skills that would make us more self-sufficient. The more skills we learned, and the less we needed, the fewer bills we had to pay, and the more time we had to work on our creative projects.
For years we went without the seeming "necessities" of running water, electricity, air conditioning through miserable North Carolina summers, or a reliable source of heat through the winter, while we lived in an abandoned one-room schoolhouse, out of our minivan and tent, and then off-grid in an AirStream trailer in the woods. Over time, we taught ourselves how to build slightly bigger, nicer structures to live in, how to program websites to make money on the side, and how to record our own music.
Now Beth and Phil are looking to take their creative sustainability to the next level, finishing up a music studio that they have been working on for some time.
They've put out an appeal to the Kickstarter community, and are well over half way to their goal of raising $28,000 - an amount that they note would pay for someone else to record one album, or create a space for them to go on generating music for years. Everything about the space is designed to be as sustainable as possible, from its small footprint to a focus on recycled materials:
When the cabin is finished, it will run on solar power, use rainwater catchment and a greywater system, be heated with a combination of solar and wood from our land, and use very little energy overall. It will also be built with recycled and nontoxic materials. For example, all the windows, doors, fixtures, appliances, roofing, and flooring, used to be part of someone else's house, and someone else's life, at some point. We like the idea of working in a place with such history, even though it will be new. It will be an inspiring space to make music inside of.
In the tradition of Kickstarter, contributors are being offered rewards and prices ranging from previously unreleased music to design work, jewelry and made-to-order watercolor paintings. If that doesn't float your boat, then Beth and Phil are also offering (completely unqualified) life coaching and relationship advice by email, or a weekend cabin party for you and your friends.
Disclosure: The Bowerbird's kickstarter campaign was created in collaboration with Creato Destructo—a creative team that includes my business partner Jerry Stifelman and his wife, Tracy Oliveto.