With a global pandemic looming over almost this entire year, hanging out has become a lost art. A few days ago, for the first time in over 200 days, my girlfriend and I went to see her mom and just hang out. She has asthma, which puts her at a heightened risk for serious COVID-19 complications, so we didn’t go inside of her house. We sat outside on folding chairs spaced far apart and talked; we ordered poke on Uber Eats; we watched a squirrel run back and forth across the road for several hours, taking berries to its nest one at a time, cheering it on as it successfully dodged oncoming cars. We said our goodbyes after a while, but we couldn’t hug the way we usually do. It was a nice visit, and we made sure to socially distance responsibly, but it still felt wrong. I’ve been taking the pandemic seriously ever since things started closing down and everyone was urged to keep their distance from one another, but somewhere along the way I had reprogrammed myself into believing that enjoying the company of other people is somehow wrong. FPBJPC’s Jubilee — which Derek Baron describes in their beautiful blurb about the album as the group’s “life-long research into ways of hanging out” — feels like it’s documenting ancient history; hanging out is foreign to me now.
FPBJPC is Michael Pollard, Peter Friel, Ben Schumacher, and Jonathan Gean. As for what it stands for, I have no idea. The index of their website provides you with a range of options from “fellated penises become joined prodigious copulation” to “fresh pubescent boy just petting cats.” The music they make together is patently ridiculous. There’s a spirit of screwing around and having fun to all of their projects that reminds me of what it felt like to be a teenager hitting up the dollar store with my group of ragtag friends, trying to make it out of there with as many bags of Skittles shoved into our pockets as possible. The album, an anthology of selections from five years of activity as a collective, reads a bit like an amateur home video or a scrapbook of memories. “At ‘YMCA’,” the opening track, begins with dissonant piano banging that slowly coalesces into Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Someone starts laughing — or maybe crying? It seems apparent right from the start that they’re not taking this seriously.
Tracks two and three are apparently from the collective’s film The China Chalet Group, and there’s no way of knowing what kind of film it is from listening to this music; the former is a cool jazz number that wouldn’t sound out of place being performed at a downtown bar, and the latter is a thumping techno track that I could probably replicate if you gave me half an hour with a DAW. We’re then treated to an interlude by a fellow called Caen Slater — ”the only rapper who produces wearable wire sculptures,” as the liner notes helpfully mention. “Now we got Michael Pollard doing recordings of some Eric Schmidt shit,” he says to a seemingly unresponsive audience. “Y’all remember Eric Schmidt? I know y’all remember Eric Schmidt.” I don’t remember Eric Schmidt; he’s very slightly mispronouncing the name of friend of the group Eric Schmid.
Though I said it seems like FPBJPC aren’t taking anything seriously, to me, they clearly are. Jubilee is a series of celebrations, each track a victory lap that honors the friendship of the group by making their performances into a party. You find spontaneous, incidental contributions from the collective’s friends all over the album, from Gabi Losoncy “playing her snack bag” to “heckling” from Rip Hayman. Jubilee is an album I needed to hear at this portion of my life, while the world is the way it currently is. Pre-pandemic life may feel like the distant past right now, but these recordings didn’t even happen that long ago. The people I love are still around, and hanging out isn’t gone for good — it’s just on hiatus.