Jeff Boller is a model of artistic self-sufficiency. Under the moniker The Simple Carnival, the 38-year-old Delmont resident has self-released two albums recorded in his basement studio. He wrote all of the songs, sang most of the vocals, did his own mixing and mastering, and played all the instruments -- guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, flute and so on. He wanted the sound of a marimba, the wooden-keyed xylophone-like instrument popular with mariachi bands, but couldn't find one for sale. So he built one himself.
Also an animator, Boller is in the process of creating a video for each song on his second album, Smitten -- in 3-D. The technology that makes piranhas and Nav'i warriors jump out at moviegoers wearing dopey glasses isn't available commercially yet, so Boller, a software-developer by day, wrote his own program for it.
"I love the creative process," says Boller, who holds a degree in sound recording from Duquesne. "I love making stuff, be it music, visual art or even software. I have to be making something."
The output of Boller's intense obsession is probably the least intense form of music there is: smooth, late-'70s/early-'80s-style soft rock. Like the rest of his creative decisions, this choice comes from Boller's drive to challenge himself. He says in the '90s he "did some freelance work recording Pittsburgh hard-rock bands you probably don't remember" and when he returned to music in 2001, he decided to test himself by playing with a lighter sound.
"Some people call that stuff ‘shlock'," says Boller, "but if you are interested in recording as a craft, that era really represents a peak," He wants his movie, which has no overarching storyline, to be "like Disney's Fantasia in 3-D, but with yacht rock."
Boller, who doesn't play live, hopes that the 3-D film gets audiences to really pay attention to his work. (He aims to have it completed next year; there are currently clips posted to the YouTube channel "simplecarnival.") "Music too often is like wallpaper," he says. "This is my elaborate way of getting them to sit down, put on some glasses and really experience it."