Daily Cal: Student Artist’s Debut Tackles Transience

By Daniel Karlin, Contributing Writer. Monday, April 9, 2007

Peter MaybardukLONELY PLANET. Peter Maybarduk promotes social change both as a student at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Law School and as a singer-songwriter. He addresses the loneliness of a transient society in his debut solo album: http://archive.dailycal.org/article.php?id=24086

The first sound we hear on Cal student Peter Maybarduk’s debut album is a familiar one: a high pitched mechanical whine, and a voice—almost human but not quite—calling out “8-car Richmond train. Now boarding. Platform 1.”

Then comes a soft voice saying, “Hello. Hello. Hello.” It’s someone checking the mic, greeting people he’s never met—reaching out to anyone, searching for anybody out there, inviting them to join him.

The sounds of the incoming BART train blend with a synthesizer, an acoustic guitar kicks in as the doors open, and the voice calls out to us: “Come inside, I’ve a story to tell.” The doors close and we’re off—on a journey with Peter Maybarduk, on his debut solo album Passengers.

“I wanted to tell a story with these songs,” Maybarduk said. “It could be one person traveling through the Bay Area and how they’re experiencing everything passing by.” On Passengers, the waves of the marina, yells of children’s playgrounds and tolling of the Campanile are interspersed between the Elliot Smith-style songs, carrying us on a journey right by Maybarduk’s side.

In fact, traveling is a recurring theme iPeter Maybardukn Maybarduk’s life. Born to an American diplomat living in Mexico City, Maybarduk has lived in Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Cuba and Venezuela. In the United States, he’s lived in Washington, D.C., attended a reform school in New England and the College of William & Mary, all before coming to UC Berkeley’s Boalt Law School. Currently in his final year at Boalt, Maybarduk is working as a law fellow in D.C. while also playing venues along the East Coast.

With law school and a music career going on simultaneously, the question arises: How do the two come together?

Rather than occupying wholly separate spheres, Maybarduk said he felt music and law can accomplish “different but mutually helpful things. They’re really just two courses, two occupations, two passions towards making change.”

And Maybarduk is devoted to change. His current fellowship is with Essential Action, an NGO dedicated to increasing accessibility of essential medicines in developing countries. After graduation, he said he plans to continue in the legal field, striving for progress in public health, while also continuing with his music to address social ills.

In that way, his two endeavors go hand in hand. “We can change the regulations of institutional structures, and we can change the mind of the person sitting right next to us,” Maybarduk said.

With this debut album, he takes on a social isGreen Corner Mansue with a deep personal significance.

“I wanted Passengers to be more than a collection of songs,” Maybarduk said. By channeling his experiences and emotions from his journeys, the album conveys a sharp sense of the loneliness of travel. “We’re quite transient as a society … and it’s a social ill, this transience,” Maybarduk said. The separation between all of us in society shines through as a central theme.

“We’re not the only ones/Who feel alone,” he sings on opening track “Passengers.” “Yet we hide in the masquerade/We hide in the rivers of stone./ And we Peter Maybarduk with Last Clear Chance @ 924 Gilman Street 2006ride just like passengers/ Damned to never go home.”

From his time in the local indie rock band Last Clear Chance, to his current phase as a singer-songwriter, Maybarduk’s music has always been an instrument dedicated to social change. On Passengers, his lyrics, strumming guitar and voice invoke us to join him, calling us to journey with him to somewhere new.

The room

(over the course of several years and a couple continents)

How many years did you spend in that room?
Spinning records, writing letters.
You know I fear the day I lose my voice, but
You don’t have that choice.

I’m looking at the cut and paste
Patchwork body art
That are your scarred arms.
Your skin is clay, and soft to carve.
And soft to carve.

You’re living years in the tornado room
The doctor’s coming soon
With charts and codes and books and bones
He’ll write you right out of ruin.

Guard your insanity at fifteen
In your room; the door off its hinges.
In yellows and greens I scribble and smear
And dream of illnesses.

‘cause I can tell by the lines in your cheek
You’re tattered, you’re just like me.
I know it still, you’ve been locked up for weeks
You’re marked, in sane, you’re free.

Guard your insanity
All the world would steal your humanity
Given one shot
Make meals of your nails and know that normalcy’s a lie
The art of being what you’re not.

Trite conversations

July 2005 – Berkeley

All these months I’ve been buried in books
And I barely managed to steal a look at you
But I know you feel the same.

Evening trappings of the trite
Another social gathering
Seemingly light
But it’s not quite

If I could I would believe
In simple dreams and simple speak
I know…
Every year my love grows deep and so does my hate
I’m losing my restraint.

Ties and cocktails, legal briefs
And brief conversations
To not detract from exams
And I do not understand.

I’ll escape the affair for a seat by the fountain
I am an aging ancient man
And it’s so long since I laughed.

But I’ve heard tell you’ve lived harder things
Like death and depth and meaning
We need to connect
While we’ve still a few years left.

In these times we must believe
In simple dreams and simple speak
I know…
I see your anger, undeserved
And you need to talk, but cannot speak a word.

So when I ask you how you are
Please do not
Don’t tell me that you’re fine.
I want to hear more.

All these months I’ve been buried in books
And I barely managed to steal a look at you
But I know you feel the same.

American June

On the shining path to the AMC
These Reston friends are the bestest, yet at best they’re temporary.
You know this sing-along song, it’s a classic, that same old stupid tune
The front porch rock inheritance of an American June.

Leave it on the tip of an American June.

The USA is a tarmac, arrivals and departures in a sea of concrete
Even when I watch my life go by from the window of an old SUV
Even when you’re not ready to take the time for the love that I give you for free
‘Cause even if I just use you
I’ll still have
And that’s the American dream….

Happy meals we call them
We Stop n’ Shop in just every place
With the Meals-on-Wheels so hidden; wrap our lives in cellophane
Some of us will get ahead, and some will clean up after those who do.
But as long as the Red Sox are playin’
There’ll be no revolution anytime soon.

Leave it on the tip of an American June.
All these things they take up both the far and the soon.

Even when you’re not ready to take the time for the love that I give you for free,
Even when I ask you to marry and a career is your primary need,
Even when I’m old and careful scaring kids off my private property
‘Cause even if I just use you
I’ll still have
And that’s the American dream.

Give me something to fight for; something to fight for besides me.

Quarter Rests

June 2005 – Berkeley

When you heard the news
Did you think that you deserved it?
Some awful punishment?

To waste away in perfect privacy
From God and those you love.

Now you’re skipping pills
Some weird economy
To save on bills; but not to save your life.

Did we forget you
In our inertia
Did you fall into
A gap in conscious time?

I see you on the street
I see you losing weight
In the Mission
You could use one now.

You slip between the moments
Slip between the oceans
In the quarter rests.

Show me the way
To march in this pride parade
We’ll leave these lives, and jump on highway one
Driving north
Don’t look back
Drive straight into the sun.

You slip between the moments
Slip between the oceans

In the quarter rests.

You slip between the moments
Slip between the oceans
In the quarter rests.


June 2006 – Oakland

Come inside; I’ve a story to tell.
About choices I’ve made
And some I’ve come to regret.

Like I’ve never stayed anywhere
Long enough to love anyone right.
How I’m never safe
So I can’t make you safe tonight; lying awake.

Give in; you can pick up the phone
We’re not the only ones
Who feel alone.
Yet we hide in the masquerade
We hide in the river of stones.
And we ride just like passengers
Damned to never go home.

If I reach for you
Would you fall back and shudder?
We can all, we can all
Take better care of each other.

Come inside; I’ve a story to tell
About choices I
Might not have time to make.

For I’m riding this train, that only pulls
Into stations for a moment or two.
And the passengers change
And I’ve no one
To hold on to
Along the way.

The Grid

October 2003 – Washington, DC

You say it’s fine; just a tempest in the night.
I’m the reason you cannot confide, am I not?
A telepath, a kind word across a telegraph.
I’d collect them, coming fast, too fast.

I might see you every day
I might see you not at all
But it’s not quite quiet yet.
It’s not quite quiet

A roiling sky, the better if we’re to hide.
It’s the season for holding tight and closing up.
I lay by your side, but the tempest is in your eyes
And you’re harder to hold than the storm right outside.

Sleep on, sleep on.

The storm knocks the limbs down to the ground
And the grid fails and every light goes out
And we light these candles, the best to see you with
And hold them here in shelter indefinite.

The power lines come down, and all we’ll know is dark.
But would we notice through the darkness of our hearts?

And it’s not quite quiet yet
We’ve still a few days left
It’s not quite quiet yet

Sao Paulo

April 2006, Berkeley
For Ana-Carolina Zeri

We could maybe split the difference
Orlando & Sao Paulo.
These United States you know get oh so serious.

Before I lose myself to ambition
I’d ask your permission
To visit you down south.

Baby, I was born in Mexico City,
I have missed it so.
I have lived and died in the pavement north.
Can I come in from the cold yet? I have felt so old now
I have felt so old.

I have tried to make a difference
In this northern land.
Our power here is great.
But baby, here they just don’t understand
The world beyond their states.
And I am the unusual alien
For I look quite the same.

We are southern bells
Ringing in the sun
Weathered by belief
And colors of pastels
All along
Our dirty streets.

Yet for now I am still waiting
In the well-to-do, well-polished North
As silent as can be.

One day, babe, I’m coming back to your clear waters
And I’m giving this all up.

And we’ll sing in Portuguese
And smile
With the South.

Stationary Stone

February 2006, Lake Tahoe / April 16, 2006, Berkeley

And it’s too late tonight
For me to come on out.
Sometimes I need some time to myself.
We could play cards
We could play at hearts
You know, that ain’t out worked out well for me
This far.

Oh, I am all right on my own
And I’d rather be alone
I’m a solitary stone.

And it’s too late tonight
For another rocket west
I am not so easy to know
Though you do your best.
We could play cards, we could play at hearts
But the outcome is uncertain
Though I’m certain
Of my part.

I cannot, I cannot count on everyone
‘Til we learn to be a little better, baby
I’ll be countin’ on this one.

And it’s too late tonight
For me to come on out.
Sometimes I need some time to myself.
We could play cards
We could play at hearts
You know, that ain’t out worked out well for me
This far.

I am all right on my own.
And I’d rather stay at home.
I’m a stationary, I’m a solitary
I am not a rolling stone!
I’m a stationary, I’m a solitary,
This stone rocks alone!


Sept. 9, 2004
International House, Berkeley
For Jessica Lehman

When you’re walking in Skyland
In your bare feet
The buck & the doe in the blueberry patch
Playing hide and seek
I reckon you’ll be calling, maybe looking out for me
Some metaphor for falling with the leaves.

But seeing ain’t believing when you’re stuck with seeing me
I’m hard to believe.

When you’re walking in Skyland
So high you can barely breathe
All colors of autumn
Tickling your feet
You may not feel like calling or like looking out for me
I have long since fallen with the leaves.
I believe it’s all in what we choose to closely keep
I’m betting on the best of all these things.

Seeing ain’t believing when you’re stuck with seeing me
I’ve got redemption, I’ve got roses up my sleeve
I’m trying to believe.

When I’m walking in Skyland
One day that I foresee
I’ll lay down in the blueberry patch
Looking for relief
The buck and the doe are bedded down; they share my memories
They’ll show me just how to let it be.
Metaphors for falling all will fall come the spring
I’m betting on the best of all these things.
And I’ve got a reason still to sing.

Seeing is believing when you stand in front of me
I’m calling your name.
Hey Jessica…
I’m trying to believe.