I wanted to open this record with Runaway because of how it just kicks the front door right off its hinges. This song finds vitality in perpetual motion and a hunger for life that is satiated by staying just a step ahead of the consequences. Runaway is optimistic, naive, and urgent. It uses passion as a metric for success and recognizes that everything here today may be gone tomorrow. I love how we locked into this one as a band. I imagine there’s a common feeling that most musicians are chasing when we play live – this visceral kind of satisfaction. Elation even. I think this song is hitting that button for all of us right now.
2. Shots in the Dark:
I wrote this song out of anger, frustration and grief. I feel like we’ve been absolutely inundated with disinformation in recent years and it’s infuriating to see people in power profiting from this kind of manipulation. It’s frustrating to see how easily false information can be accepted as fact and it’s tragic how personal relationships and communities can be strained or broken by it. This song is definitely a jab at the conservative power structure in this country but it’s also a reflection of how my own beliefs and opinions (that are quite the opposite of theirs) have alienated or hurt people who I love. Searching for truth and understanding is part of the journey we’re on to a better life. Shots in the Dark is about how difficult that journey can be, but it’s also a reminder to continue working to distill anger into grace. I love Jay’s drum fills in this song. They’re no-frills and razor-sharp and they amp me up every time. I also love how we leaned into this kind of doo-wop hook (sha-sha-shots in the dark) to contrast with the ferocity of the rest of the song.
3 Art for Our Sake:
The title of this song is a twist on the French philosophy, L’art Pour L’art (Art for Art’s Sake), which argued that art shouldn’t need to have meaning, purpose, or conveyance of any emotional, moral, or political information to have value. I prefer to believe that art is a dialogue between the artist and the viewer/listener/experiencer. Art is pure soul and its made from blood sweat and tears, that’s why it’s valuable and necessary. I wrote Art For Our Sake partly as a manifesto and I think it’s an accurate reflection of what we strive for in this band. We get to make music as art over commodity. We do it to enrich our lives and feed our souls and to hopefully benefit those around us while we’re at it. As with most any hard-lined stance, hypocrisy inevitably surfaces though. As a working artist, I have to make honest work that comes from the right place within, but I also have to assign a monetary value to that work and my survival depends on it. It’s easy for money to speak louder than my heart. “But I’ll wager everything on how much you love my dreams/I’ll wager everything on the money that they bring” This song is about working to grow creatively and spiritually, but recognizing that life is messy and complicated, rarely clean and easy. We have to feed our souls to live well, but we have to put food on the table to stay alive – and sometimes that means you have to sharpen your teeth.
4. Meaningless Resistance:
This is the other side of the coin for Shots in the Dark. It’s an indictment of privileged liberals – the ones who support trending causes with little banners under their cute profile pics, but vote to keep public transit initiatives out of their neighborhoods for fear of “the poors” showing up. It’s for the ones with terminal degrees and no student loan debt who have all the answers and choose to use them to tear people down in the comments section for using poor grammar and spelling. Isn’t it tragic that so many of your fellow humans weren’t afforded the same opportunities for education as you? No it’s not, because it makes you feel superior and that’s why you’re complicit. I really like a weird, angular guitar riff/chord progression and I like it even more when I can figure out how to marry it with a good vocal melody. In all honesty, I was trying to write something that felt like an early Bad Religion song here. No one has mentioned Bad Religion in the same breath as this song even once yet, so… success?
Effigy was one of our collaborative writing efforts that fell right into place. Derron sent me a demo of a couple of riffs linked together. It already had this big, kind of epic feel and it seemed like the logical thing to do would be to stretch it out into a five-minute post-hardcore exploration, but there was also something really succinct about what was there in his demo. It was ultra lean and everything was really accounted for already. I was drinking coffee and gritting my teeth while reading an article about commercial land developers in Atlanta and looping those riffs quietly in the background. About 20 minutes later I was upstairs recording the vocals and that was that. It took me two years to write Art For Our Sake. This one probably has two hours in it between the two of us. Ha!
6. Hell, Mary:
As a writer, I’m really interested in word-play and homonyms and I like how a small change in a common phrase can completely alter its meaning. Hell, Mary is a familiar ritual, but it’s the opposite of a prayer. It is about hyper-vigilance. It’s about being captive to the 24-hour news cycle. It’s about depriving oneself joy because there’s a new tragedy worth mourning coming down the pipe every fifteen minutes. We want truth and understanding and they’re very eager to supply a highly profitable substitute. When Jay joined the fold on drums, we quickly realized that he’s a great harmonizer. The success of this song is largely due to his vocal presence. The three-part harmonies that we pulled off in the outro are some of my favorite moments on this record.
7. 38 regular (Out of This Grave):
This is the first song that we wrote for the record. It’s a covid song. Derron brought in the riff for this song soon after we were able to get back in the same room again and it kind of sparked us back to life. I hadn’t written anything in ages and I was generally in a dark place. I brought a voice memo home of us jamming the basic structure of this song and I wrote the lyrics and melody in one sitting. I felt a jolt of that ever-elusive creative bliss and I felt alive again. This record is about growth, change, and shifting perspectives. Several of the preceding songs chronicle a descent into darkness and 38 Regular opens side B as a new start. A re-emergence. 38 Regular was a joke title for this song during the writing process because the intro riff sounds like a .38 Special song. It became inescapable.
Illusions contemplates the difference between living an authentic life and living a life that appears to be authentic from the outside. These days having a social media presence that chronicles one’s craft, life, and leisure is a necessity for success, but creating content for these platforms can be a full-time job in itself. We have to choose between honing our crafts and making interesting little blips on the internet to prove that we have a craft. What’s the difference between a good life and a life that looks good?
Supporting positive change in the world starts with implementing positive change in oneself. I tend to get agitated when I see people reposting trending topics and acting as commentators for events they haven’t witnessed or otherwise been close to. Armchair activism really bothers me. I was complaining to my wife about a wave of it once and she said “Sometimes it’s just important to amplify the signal.” She’s right. What does my anger and frustration do to improve the situation? Nothing. I’d rather do something to help.
10. Never Fade Away:
If you’re born poor or working class in this country, the system is designed for you to stay that way. Meritocracy is a lie. If you can’t pay cash for a higher station in life, inevitable debt will anchor you to the floor. We’re asked to stand here in water up to our mouths and be thankful that it isn’t over our noses while we tune in to worship the leisure class on a reality tv. It’s so degrading. Try as they might to reduce us to mindless sources of passive income for the wealthy – we have voices, we have taste, we have soul, and we aren’t going anywhere.
Hodge was my friend. He had a brilliant singing voice and a great laugh. We played music together 20 years ago and he was the first person in my life that really believed that I had some talent with a guitar. He inspired me to start believing in myself and that changed the course of my life. I never told him that and I’ll always carry that regret. He passed away from brain cancer a few years ago, the same month that he earned his Ph.D. in History. What a legend. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, but that’s no reason to stop pushing forward.
12. Love Song For the End Times:
Love song is the death rattle of cynicism on the record. It contains the final acknowledgments of the pitfalls and trappings of everyday life near the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and contemplates that maybe our perception of time, as linear, and space, as limited to what we can sense around ourselves, is a narrow outlook. Maybe it’s what keeps us punching clocks and doing what we’re told. Maybe there’s more to us? Maybe there’s more to everything?
13. What’s in a Goodbye Anyway?
The closer takes comfort in the complete unknown. Maybe we’re at the end of our rope. Maybe we’re at the very beginning of something new? Maybe we’re careening around an infinite loop that spirals out forever and we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again and we just have to try to get a little better at it each time. I’m trying. This time around, I’m trying to get better at seeing the beauty in all of it.
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