On 'Billy and the Space Bum,' the debut EP from Miles Logan's indie-rock act, the band learns to take up space on earth
In early 2017, singer and guitarist Miles Logan was living alone for the first time. He wasn’t lonely, necessarily, but he was leading a mostly solitary existence and had a lot of time on his hands. One day, while fiddling around with a chord progression on his guitar, a lyric came to Logan: “Feeling like a bum in outer space.”
The next morning, while manning a juice bar in Bexley by himself, another song idea began taking shape that involved a kid named Billy and the aforementioned space bum. “It was this weird thing where I felt like I knew exactly what it was without having any of the details yet,” Logan said. “It was the beginning of the Trump era, a very dark time. … I was learning to take up space in the world and become my own person. I was dealing with this idea of being easy on yourself and being patient with yourself and learning to stand on your own two feet.”
The songs that started trickling out matched Logan’s headspace, but he filtered them through the persona of Billy, a 12-year-old boy who is ushered off into the cosmos by a space bum.
“There are a lot of characters that come in and out, and I think most of them are in some way an aspect of me. The unifier is Billy, and then the space bum is kind of the Gandalf you want to be — the part of you that's like, ‘You can trust yourself. Go ahead. Let's go do this thing,’” said Logan, who records and performs as Tragic Sans, which is releasing its debut EP, Billy and the Space Bum, today (Friday, Nov. 13). “When I wrote [closing track] ‘Space Bum,’ it was very much a song that I needed at the time that just didn't exist. But it was nerve wracking and vulnerable, because I was like, ‘I don't want this to be cheesy or saccharine. I want this to feel genuine.’ I was very nervous about that. And eventually I was like, ‘Let's just lean into it.’”Lean into Alive: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Logan moved to Columbus several years ago from the Mt. Gilead area, where he grew up pursuing theater and taking vocal lessons. Then, in his teenage years, Logan picked up the guitar and discovered Radiohead, Gorillaz and other Brit-rock acts that still influence his music today.
After arriving in Columbus, Logan hopped around from band to band (he currently sings in Lowlights), eventually forming his own group after penning the Billy and the Space Bum songs. Drummer Daniel Seibert came on board first, with bassist Ben Ahlteen, keys player Jack Doran and guitarist Scott Woodward joining as the band gained its footing. “We would play shows, but it mostly felt like a recording project for a long time,” Logan said. “It was just some friends making an album, but now that it’s done it feels like a band.”
While Logan initially planned a 12-song Tragic Sans album, over time he opted for a tight, six-song EP that, while set in outer space, stays grounded with instantly memorable folk-rock and indie-pop melodies led by the frontman’s impressive vocals, which manage to carry emotional weight without ever feeling ponderous.
There’s an escapist aspect to the EP, too. This is, after all, a collection of songs about a boy leaving earth for a trip around the solar system. “I wanted this to feel almost like a 1960s Saturday morning cartoon, some sort of sci-fi, Flash Gordon thing … where you can just avoid the world,” Logan said. “There's this sheen of, ‘Let's get out of here. This is awful. … Let's deal with our problems in an alternate reality and maybe in a different dimension or planet.'”
Listening today to the songs he wrote in early 2017, Logan is struck by how youthful they sound. “It sounds like somebody learning to be kind and take it easy. Some of it sounds really snarky and teenage-y, but I don’t even grimace at it. … That was correct for the time,” he said. “In the process of making this, I grew up a lot and learned how to approach life with more purpose and intention. And you can be gentle with yourself while you're doing it.”