Brazilian Musical Collective As For the Future Parody Classic ‘Saturday Night Live’ Skit and Question Industry, in “Koan for the Music Business”

Releasing music into the world today is like hearing “crickets,” says David Nagler, singer and songwriter of the New York-based Brazilian quintet As For the Future. “It’s easier than ever to be listened to,” he tells American Songwriter, “but somehow it feels harder than ever to be heard.” It’s a sentiment Nagler explores on “Koan for the Music Business,” from the group’s upcoming self-titled album, out June 14.

If a record drops in a forest, does anyone hear it / If a record drops in a forest, is there a hit song ponders Nagler in “Koan for the Music Business,” a soothing sermon on the state of the industry. Rooted in the word “Koan,” which translates into riddle and is used in Zen Buddhism to provoke enlightenment, throughout the song, Nagler presents a long line of questions, whether a song can be cut down or if you hear a hot new single is it the same old sound?

“’Koan for the Music Business” is a Zen Buddhist song about the music industry—the first, to my knowledge,” says Nagler. “”It was the main lyric that got the song started, an aphorism mashup, as a friend put it: ‘If a record drops in a forest, does anyone hear it?'”

Nagler adds, “Musicians today often feel that releasing music into the world is like: crickets. Why? Factors include technology, social media, and, of course, the massive quantity of new and old music and its accessibility, but it seems like there’s no definitive answer, which is why this song consists of only questions.”

Editied by Nagler and set by a backdrop of waterfalls and other tranquil imagery from national forests, the video for “Koan for the Music Business” is an homage and parody of the 1990s Saturday Night Live skit Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey with the lyrics scrolling up the screen.

Videos by American Songwriter

As For the Future (clockwise from upper left): Alexia Bomtempo, Ray Rizzo, David Lizmi, David Nagler, Mauro Refosco

More than 90 percent of the album, featuring nine bonus tracks (alternate mixes, dub versions, and edits), was recorded remotely at various home and professional studios and mixed by D. James Goodwin (DEVO, The National, The Hold Steady) at The Isokon in Kingston, New York. 

Along with Nagler, whose credits span work with the band Tape Hiss, featuring former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, along with performing with Rosanne Cash, Joan Baez, Aaron Neville, Fred Armisen, John Doe, Andrew Bird, Yo La Tengo, and more, As For the Future is rounded out by co-vocalist Alexia Bomtempo, bassist David Lizmi (Elysian Fields), percussionist Mauro Refosco (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Atoms for Peace), and drummer Ray Rizzo, among other musicians.

Nagler formed the musical collective in 2020 bringing together more than 15 different musicians to make music remotely. The result was an eponymous debut, featuring 10 tracks, including “Koan for the Music Business.”

Together, As For the Future weave a collage of sounds only they could have imagine. Pulling their name Taking their name from a novel by later Ukrainian-born Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector, As For the Future string togeher a collection of genres—everything from bossa nova and samba, MPB (música popular brasileira), folk, rock, and soul.

“My hope for the first As For the Future album was for it to be a bit of everything, like how an early Bob Dylan record could contain songs that were socially conscious, personal and emotionally engaging, witty and humorous, all side by side,” says Nagler. “’Koan for the Music Business,’ like many of the other songs on the record, keeps it light and serious at the same time.”

Photo: Bernie DeChant / Courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

Elle King Opens up About Her Mishap During the Dolly Parton Tribute and Admits She Was "Overwhelmed"

Elle King Opens up About Her Mishap During the Dolly Parton Tribute

Songs New and Old Collective Soul Members Want You to Know from Their Catalog