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The Unemployed Architects founder searching for new identity; new EP is a search for meaning during the pandemic

Tyler Sweitzer
The Unemployed Architects presenting TyJon Charlie debuts “Pandemic Relief EP (LIVE near Normal)" in front of good friends and hopefully new fans Tuesday night at The Stable in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington’s multigenre band Unemployed Architects (UA) is morphing once again. Probably more accurate to say bandleader Tyler Sweitzer is searching for a band identity while he searches for deeper meaning to long pondered questions about … everything.

To wit, the new UA album that dropped Tuesday, “Pandemic Relief EP (LIVE near Normal),” is a UA album, but the solo acoustic offering begs the question, “Where are the other band members?”

“Well, I do end up playing solo a lot of the time, it’s like my one-man-band performance” said Sweitzer. “And then I have my sign that says, ‘Check out the Unemployed Architects,’ and everybody is always confused.”

Right? Hang on, he’s going somewhere with this.

“But it’s introducing my solo project, which is TyJon Charlie” he explained.

So … the Unemployed Architects Introducing TyJon Charlie?

“Presents,” corrected Sweitzer.

“Ty” is obviously from Sweitzer’s first name.

“And my middle name is Jon. Then Charlie … I’ve always had this connection to Charlie Brown. I’ve always felt that’s my disposition in a lot of ways. Every time the Christmas special comes on about Christmas time … he’s over-dissecting it,” Sweitzer said after searching for words.

“He’s always looking for meaning in things. And I feel like I relate to that.”

Charlie Brown is an interesting character to openly identify with in that the “blockhead” angle could be used as a weapon against him. But Sweitzer said his affinity comes from the Peanuts central character continually searching for answers to life’s questions, sometimes in a neurotic way.

Which is an appropriate segue into the new EP. As the seven songs unfold, Sweitzer is searching for more context and meaning in the things big and little in his life. “The Wheel” tackles the well-treaded ground of love.

The glory, glory
Given to the bounty of love
The poet's leave out
How it's more like a drug.

“The longer you've been in any sort of relationship, the more you feel like you can't just be a passive observer,” said Sweitzer. “You have to be active and engaged. You run into things always … it's never like you romanticize in a relationship. But you leave out all the details. ‘I'd always do that exact thing.’ You romanticize it. But when you're in it, you realize it takes work and there are very high points and very low points. Sometimes you'd like to gloss over that part.”

The EP comes from a Facebook Live performance Sweitzer recorded during the pandemic which has been up on YouTube since mid-December. He initially had no plans on releasing the songs as an EP. At best he thought he could salvage a couple songs in video form. But looking more closely, he really liked two of the songs, including “Winter White.” That got the wheels turning. He said it’s about a relationship that had run its course, even if he had not realized it.

“The song has this big intro. I was watching a lot of 'Survivor' at the time, so he goes out to these places. And then you suffer from this thing … I guess called snow blindness … being lost in the wilderness. And not only is there nothing around, you're in the desert, essentially. But you also can't see very well, you don't know where you're going. I used that as a metaphor for where I was in this relationship that was ending, then waking up to a whole new life is the second half of it,” said Sweitzer.

Kind of like waking up to a pandemic lockdown. Thank god for the music, right?

“It's all I had really. In a lot of ways, it was rough because I can't go out and do the thing I'm trying to do every weekend. So, the live streams gave me a little bit of light. It's not the same as a live performance, but it was something to plan my week around, because that's how I plan every week — around the shows. Without that I feel directionless and a little lost. Having something was better definitely than having nothing,” he said.

When Sweitzer unveils this new recording at The Stable in Bloomington on Tuesday night, look for the song “Good Friends.” It’s one that propelled him to put the album together. UA fans may recognize the full-band version, but Sweitzer said the acoustic version is very much a pandemic tune.

“It's about late nights with good people when you don't get that quite often enough. I'd written it right before all this happened. And I'd had one of those really good fun nights with good people just hanging out.

losing my footing
deep in the shallow

I've failed
to mention
the sleepless nights
with the tired tension

cause good friends
become old friends
without any time
we lost the beat
but we never lost the rhyme

"You're feeling kind of on empty … feeling the melancholy of not being around people. And then you have one of those nights and you're like, ‘Oh, I remember why I'm supposed to be alive.’ And I think that is what that song is saying, especially in this time period.”

The Unemployed Architects presenting TyJon Charlie debuts “Pandemic Relief EP (LIVE near Normal)" in front of good friends and hopefully new fans Tuesday night at The Stable in downtown Bloomington.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.
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