Welcome to my world.

By the time I’m releasing this it’s January 3rd 2016. I’ve been working on this album for over 9 months. The first song I wrote for the album was Sail Away. It was, ironically, the last song to get cut from it.

I wrote it on February 15th 2015. I had just gone through a really bad breakup. I had recently been arrested, had stopped leaving my room except to eat and to go to staff meetings. I was spending my days watching anime on my phone, neglecting my work and wishing sometimes that everything would just end. I had to escape, so my friend Clara Luu and I drove to Half Moon Bay and sat at the state beach, under a cloudy sky, just writing. It started as a poem. I didn’t have an instrumental at the time to capture how I was feeling. I hadn’t been writing as much as usual; I think the last substantial piece of work I had done before that day was a poem for a Valentine’s Day event, imploring my best friend to stop cheating on his girlfriend. The song felt right at the time, and began a process that would take me coast to coast, and coast to coast again, to cities I’d never been in alone, through a relationship I wasn’t ready for, and into the realization that I had to figure out how to get my life together. Now, a few thousand miles later, and a few thousand dollars spent, I’m finally ready to release it.

As I’m writing this it’s 5:30am. I’m listening to the new Wonder Years CD, No Closer To Heaven. Ever since I quit my last job I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Tyler probably couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve called him at 4am stressing about some random detail about the project. I get into bed and I worry. I worry about life, about my relationships, about uncertainties, and about friends and family; but mostly I worry about this album. In July, I worried about the songs, meticulously crafting one after another to try to fill out the album. One week I wrote 5 songs straight. In August, I slept because I had a job. In September, I worried about releasing the album on time, when I thought it was coming out in November. In October I worried about The Outsiders, worried about finding us a manager, and worried about the fact that the most polished examples of my work were over a year old, knowing that back then I wasn’t close to where I am now. In November, I worried about whether or not the album was good enough, and in December, I worried about whether or not people would listen and how to get people to even care enough to want to hear the album. Now I worry about its release, its reception, and whether it will be the boost I need to begin eating off of my passion.

My parents have been yelling at me for months to get a job. Most people can see themselves working various places. Me? All I can see are the places I can’t work. I know that “nobody likes their job” and “it’s not supposed to be fun” and all of those other idiosyncratic phrases about employment we tell people, but I can’t resign myself to a life where I spend 40+ hours a week feeling miserable. To be honest, I’m scared to work a 9 to 5. I’m afraid of not fulfilling my own dreams in pursuit of someone else’s. I hear stories from my friends who have jobs, about how they get off, come home, have a few hours to themselves and then sleep to go to work the next day and I’m terrified. I’m scared that my career will never take off and that I’ll be stuck telling my kids about how I tried and failed to make it in the music industry. I’m scared that I’ll be in my 50s going to music business conferences still trying to pass out my mixtape, chasing some pipe dream. I’m afraid to come home after a miserable day every day, just to cook, eat and sleep for the next one. As someone who regularly works 6 hours through the night mixing a single song, and who revels in the creation, that’s not a sustainable existence. I would have to give up music — giving up a part of myself in the process.

This album is important to say the least. It’s my first piece of work post graduation and my longest project yet. Until now, I haven’t necessarily put together this many songs around 2 central thematic ideas. The Ride Home was barely six songs and each of The Coldest Season series only contained the songs that I’d written in the preceding year. IDols, on the other hand, is a different beast entirely. For starters, it’s two discs, Vallely and Glover, named after Mike Vallely and Donald Glover respectively.

Mike Vallely has been one of my idols since I was a kid. I have a poster of him ripped out of an old Transworld Skateboarding magazine hanging on the wall of my childhood room. I have a hat that he signed at the Zumiez Couch Tour almost ten years ago, sitting on a souvenir model of Epcot on my dresser. The first disc is dedicated to him, to his style, his ideals and his attitude, all of which heavily influenced my values growing up. Individuality, honesty, respect, and accountability, were all beliefs for me that formed early on, and really pushed me to find a place in Hardcore music and in the HxC community. In a sense, the Vallely portion is my own intellectual framework; it’s guttural, it’s violently compassionate, and it’s heavy — in that it explores not only themes, but issues such as: gentrification, loss, and my own dedication to a substance free lifestyle, among other things. But it’s still me. The fact is, this album as a whole is the closest I’ve ever gotten to musically expressing the real me and I think that it will be obvious to people who listen.

Donald Glover, or as most know him, Childish Gambino, has been one of my idols since my Myspace days. I first heard of him through a rapper named MC Chris, who was (and still generally is) one of my favorite nerdcore rappers. MC Chris had this song called The Awesome posted on his page for the longest, right before Fett’s Vette (which if you haven’t heard, you’re missing out on).

I would guess that people who are newer Childish fans have never heard the album, Poindexter, that this song comes from. The song Freaks and Geeks wouldn’t come out for another two years, Community was still yet to air, and Childish was yet to rise to prominence as a rapper. But for people who knew about him and could really connect with what he was saying, this CD, and it’s follow up Culdesac, were so fucking important. Donald Glover was just like us. Us being nerdy black kids, growing up bullied, and searching for ourselves. When I started rapping seriously 4 years ago, he was a major influence on me because he showed me I didn’t have to hide my story. Yeah, some people weren’t tryna hear it, but the fact that he was willing to put himself and his life out there in a genre where voices like his had been stifled gave me hope. Rap is hard, in that the valuation of the struggle (mainly by corporations) and America’s fetishization of ghetto life makes any alternate visions of blackness seem inauthentic.

I looked to him for inspiration, mainly on how to be honest about my life. I was tired of dropping hood terms into soliloquies about feeling alone, as if a couple gun sounds could hide the fact that what I was rapping about wasn’t the life I lived. At the same time, his upbringing in the hood mirrored mine: watching what happens, but not understanding anything until later, never truly a part of it. I don’t think that our generation has the necessary vocabulary to describe what it’s like to be Black and middle class, but Donald Glover was the best start we could have had. The dichotomy of loving indie music and Biggie, the feelings of displacement in both Black and white spaces, all of these ideas that have never really been explored in rap were topics that he brought to the forefront of his music. That’s what I’ve tried to do with this disc, in addition to infusing my own ethos and feelings into it. Whereas Vallely is hyper serious, Glover is the exact opposite. It’s supposed to be light and make you laugh and feel comfortable. One of the things I had to realize is that mixtapes in The Coldest Season series fall flat because them shits don’t make you feel good. It’s dark, emotional music from a dark, emotional place. This disc tries to show that even in dark places, there’s humor. In the darkness of the things we hate, we find the things that we are actually supposed to love.

So, yeah…that’s IDols in a nutshell. In two weeks you can all finally hear the project that I’ve been waiting for months to share with you. It’s so much of me put into a few megabytes of data, and to be honest, that’s kind of nerve-wracking. I don’t really know what I want people to take away from it. I have no idea which songs are gonna be popular, and which songs people are gonna call whack. I don’t have any expectations, but I just hope that the music will be good for someone. For a little good Karma, I want to put in some thank you’s. Thanks to Darrell, Mina and Ms. Garlock, for always supporting and believing in my dream. Thank you to Jessica Anderson, for all the love and support you’ve given me. Thank you to DJ Rhonda for listening through the album and inspiring part of it. Thanks to The Outsiders as a unit, but especially to EAGLEBABEL for talking me through hella late night crises, and faruhdey for listening and offering feedback on literally every single mix, demo and rough idea while working a more than full time job. Thank you Justin Yelle for always working with me in the studio, to Shane Garlock for the promotional photos, and to David Grunzweig for helping me coordinate studio sessions remotely. Most of all, thank you to the people who are here for the music: the weird kids, the dreamers, the lonely and the hopeful, the different, the strange and the lost. You give me a reason to do what I do, and you help me understand myself.


Eli Arbor

Eli Arbor’s debut album IDols, drops January 13th. You can find him on twitter @eliarbor,, and on facebook at



Eli Arbor is a musician. He arranges words to rearrange hearts.

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Eli Arbor

Eli Arbor is a musician. He arranges words to rearrange hearts.