Ross Harman was one-half of The Gaskets, a quirky electro-pop duo who were active in the Richmond scene throughout the past decade. Sadly, he took his own life last year. At his memorial service, music from his little-heard solo project The Ballpoint Pens was played, and blew everyone away. Inspired by the reaction, Gaskets manager Nate “Igor” Smith decided to organize a tribute to Ross that would involve his many talented friends. A year later, the result of those efforts was Love Me When I’m Gone, a tribute album featuring 15 different bands performing songs written by Ross. The original plan had been to put the album out as an online-only release, but once it was finished, those involved in its creation realized that it was way too good an album to go without a physical release. At that point, plans were set into motion to release the album on vinyl.
Now you have the opportunity to help see this goal achieved. Smith has set up a Kickstarter page for the album. A great deal of the funds necessary to create a proper double LP release of Love Me When I’m Gone have already been raised, but a secondary goal has been established–that of releasing two different collections of Ballpoint Pens songs on vinyl as well. The two Ballpoint Pens compilations, curated by Teddy Blanks, Harman’s former collaborator in The Gaskets, are entitled Calcutta and Symphony. The first album was assembled before Harman’s death, while the second one was compiled by Blanks from music found on Harman’s computer after his death. Both albums are currently available for free download at rossharman.com, but like Love Me When I’m Gone, they’re of sufficient quality that they deserve to be released on vinyl.
The Kickstarter goal is probably not going to be sufficient to cover the vinyl release of both Ballpoint Pens albums as well as the tribute album, but sales of the tribute album and funds raised at the vinyl release party are expected to cover the remaining costs. In the end, the primary purpose of the Love Me When I’m Gone Kickstarter page is to enable everyone who wants a copy to preorder it, so Smith and company know how many to press. And this is a good thing, because everyone who is able should definitely get themselves a copy. There’s plentiful evidence of Harman’s songwriting genius to be found on Love Me When I’m Gone; in spite of the wide variety of genres in which the artists on the album play Harman’s songs, all of them seem to find his material perfectly suited to their own personal styles. From the ethereal pop of Novios to the upbeat keyboard-driven punk of VCR to James Wallace And The Naked Light’s melange of indie-folk and Caribbean pop to the alt-country stylings of the Atkinsons, Harman’s music seems tailor-made for the sound of each of these wildly divergent bands. The most affecting portion of the album, though, is its last two songs–one each by the Gaskets and the Ballpoint Pens. Hearing Harman croon the album’s title phrase over and over as Love Me When I’m Gone draws to a close is tragic in its prescience. This labor of love shows just how much he is loved in his absence, but it’s a shame he couldn’t be here to hear it.
The rest of us, however, do still have that opportunity. Regardless of whether you were a fan of Ross Harman’s work while he was still around or you’re just discovering it now, you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of this impressive reminder of his talent. A pledge of $25 or more gets you a copy of the double LP, plus the entire album as a digital download. If you can afford to pledge more than that, quite a few other items are available–copies of the Gaskets Loose Change Live DVD, leftover Gaskets t-shirts, stickers, and promotional items, and even limited edition signed prints of the Love Me When I’m Gone album cover. If nothing else, a $5 pledge gets you a digital download of the album, so there are options available even for those who don’t have much cash to spare. It’s worth it to do your part to help ensure that this incredibly talented member of the Richmond music scene is not forgotten.