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For the love of local music: BaLonely’s Norman Robbins, 22, partners with Luis Mota to keep creative juices flowing

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 19, 2021

By Julien A. Luebbers For The Spokesman-Review

Local musical artist Norman Robbins chooses not to let the frigid winter snowstorms ride too heavy on his mind. He keeps things light, listening to dance music that’s more summer-and-sand than anything.

“Usually, that kind of thing only lives through the summer for me,” he said, going on to explain that this time of year is often characterized by more downbeat indie. But this year, the annual dance-music phase hasn’t come to an end.

Given the circumstances, it seems like a peculiar year for that kind of emphatic summertime energy to run deep into the colder months, but there is a definite practicality to it for Robbins.

It’s about “making me feel that sort of ritual, you know, of just rhythm,” he said. It recalls now-prohibited nights in dance clubs engaging in the collective “ritual” of rhythmic movement.

Robbins, 22, is something of a musical polymath: He makes all kinds of music and has been involved in it since he was young. In talking with him, he mentioned stints on drums, guitar, bass, mixing and more.

His main role, though, is as a guitarist and lead vocals for indie rock group BaLonely, a diverse-sounding outfit that calls to mind at some moments the Strokes, at others Yo La Tengo, but always their own unique sound.

Their writing has taken a pause during the pandemic; as far as upcoming releases, Robbins said BaLonely does have a new record on the way, but they’re taking their time “making sure that we’re stoked about it when it comes out.” After all, with touring off the table, there’s no rush.

That relaxed timeline and halt to any in-person performances left Robbins with a little too much time on his hands. Clearly one who likes to stay busy, he got right to work.

“I’ve been making a lot of music on my own and been thinking about releasing it as a solo thing because it’s like, well, what else is there to do right now?”

A fair question indeed. What is there to do? Robbins would tell you that, actually, there’s plenty. He joined forces with another local, Luis Mota, who runs the Palimpsest Group. TPG is a local music publicity and management group founded by Mota when he lived in El Paso, Texas.

“I wanted to share my knowledge that I’ve gained through the years of being in the music industry,” Mota said of TPG. “To be successful in this industry, you have to learn to adapt with the times and growing trends.”

That’s where the idea for a series of local livestreams originated. Robbins came to Mota “with an idea and didn’t know exactly how to execute it. It being the goal for TPG to help artists develop their dreams, we figured it out and ran with it.”

Together, Mota and Robbins have launched a series of local livestreams featuring acts including Greying, Heat Speak and more that broadcasts regularly on veeps.com from Neato Burrito downtown.

“We both were looking for something to do, and we both wanted to help the scene out and keep people playing music and having a schedule and sort of staying inspired and inspiring other people,” Robbins said.

“The beauty about the internet is that we can share it across the world,” Mota said.

“Patty and Tim – the owners of Neato Burrito – when we brought the idea up to them, they were so into it and were just immediately like, ‘Oh, yeah, do it,’ ” Robbins said.

It’s not only been an opportunity for Robbins to keep busy – putting these shows together is no small feat – but also for him to share the passion for music that years of being an artist has given him, as well as support local businesses along the way.

“This is the most inspirational thing I could possibly do for myself and I hope that I could do for other people, you know?” he said.

The Palimpsest Group, which is funded by a Spokane Arts Grant, will be hosting a livestream event at 8 p.m. Friday topically dubbed the Lovestream. It’s a series of local cover shows that also features poetry readings and comedy, and the cost is $10.

BaLonely will be one of the featured groups covering the Bee Gees. Other bands will be covering the likes of Wilco, David Bowie and more with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.

The Lovestream is focused on carrying on the loving spirit of Valentine’s Day. And some of the music will definitely warm the soul in these cold winter months and unite music fans over the ritual of rhythm.

To watch Robbins, BaLonely and other local artists, visit the Palimpsest Group’s website at thepalimpsestgroup.com/lovestream, where you can also find other local music projects.

Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at julienluebbers@gmail.com.

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