Category Archives: FEATURES

Getaway Dogs: Soul Kitchen

GetawayDogs

Getaway Dogs make Brazilian psychedelia … from California

Getaway Dogs inhabit their own starry-eyed universe, drifting along to the tropical pulsation of big bossa-nova guitars, shimmering intergalactic keyboards, somnambulant vocals, whispered percussion and bright, buoyant melodies. Singer, songwriter and lead guitarist Kai Killion was born in the United States but didn’t get serious about music until he spent two years with his extended family in Brazil.

“I grew up with Brazilian jazz, bossa nova, samba and pop, as well as classic American rock and folk,” he says. “I also listened avidly to neo-soul, hip hop, indie pop and psychedelic rock. I found it difficult to stick with just one genre. That’s how I ended up with the sound Getaway Dogs has.”

When he moved back to Santa Cruz, an artistic nexus on the California coast, Killion started playing his songs on the street and at open mics. A few years back, he made a solo album called Mermaid Legs & Getaway Dogs. It was a raw, acoustic effort that featured the luminous harmonies of his pal Samantha Stone, but it didn’t capture the sounds he was hearing in his head. Killion returned to the studio and, over the course of the next two years, put together Lost In The Ebb, the first proper Getaway Dogs LP.

With a small coterie of like-minded souls, Killion made a record full of dreamy, late-night psychedelia that spins a calm, soothing spell. True to its title, the music ebbs and flows, with Killion’s guitar filigrees floating through whirlpools of ambient sound to support his gently surrealistic lyrics and Stone’s sublime harmonies.

“I recruited Samantha to sing on a couple songs the second time Getaway Dogs played live,” says Killion. “She brings the soul to our sound. We share the same taste in music and a love for channeling nature into our expres-sion.”

—j. poet

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D Generation: Walk On The Wild Side

DGeneration

NYC punk icon D Generation returns with first album in 17 years

It was a painfully clear message that fourth- generation New Yorker Danny Sage received in a local bar late one hard-drinking night a few years ago: His hometown was changing. Fast. Not recognizing the guitarist as one of the founding members of Big Apple garage-punk trailblazer D Generation, a snotty, disrespectful millennial kept mouthing o until he went too far.

“So I finally said, ‘OK—let’s go to the curb,’” the guitarist says. “And the guy literally replied, ‘If you touch me, I’ll sue you! My dad is so and so, the famous lawyer!’ And I just started laughing, it was so embarrassing. I’d rather get punched in the face than whine about how my daddy is somebody important.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the brash street-tough spirit crackling through Nothing Is Anywhere, D Generation’s first new album in 17 years, which includes the same scrappy gang from its eponymous 1994 debut—Sage (who also produced), vocalist Jesse Malin, bassist Howie Pyron, guitarist Richard Bacchus and drummer Michael Wildwood. It’s a defiantly New York collection of working-class anthems that celebrates the band’s gritty urban past (“Apocalypse Kids,” “Queens Of A,” “Hatful Of Rain,” “Not Goin’ Back”) while sneering at the gentrification and pretentious poseurs corrupting its city’s culture (“Militant,” “Rich Kids,” “21st Century Blues,” churning stomper “Mercy Of The Rain,” on which Malin ominously growls, “Everybody wants this year’s model/Everybody wants to take your place”). After calling it quits with a 1999 farewell gig at Coney Island High, these old schoolers are back, angrier than ever, and ready to take that fight outside.

It’s no coincidence that many Nothing lyrics ring with the Whit Stillman-ish veracity of overheard pub conversations, albeit knuckle-headed ones. Both Sage and Malin are part owners of separate New York bars—Dreambaby and Niagara, respectively. And they’ve spent many evenings at their establishments, quietly drinking and listening to some often incredibly shallow dialogue.

“It’s just inescapable,” says Sage, who relocated to Los Angeles after the breakup and worked as a personal assistant to a publishing exec before getting homesick. “In D Gen, we all come from here, and from middle-class backgrounds at best. But these people? They’re all über-wealthy, they’re not from the city, and they’ve never been told no in their life. They moved here seven years ago, and they’re an authority on New York culture, but they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. And they have no natural predators. I always tell them, ‘If the city was like it was when I was a kid? You’d be on the back of a milk carton by now.’”

Sage believes that this lack of awareness is aggravated by the impersonal digital age. “People are just oblivious,” he swears. “I’ll see these girls going home at six in the morning, walking down the middle of Avenue A and carrying a pair of heels, bombed out of their minds, and I can’t believe that goes on in any city, not just mine. And it goes for guys, too—maybe they’re a tough kid in their hometown in Ohio. But I don’t know if that counts for much on the Lower East Side at five o’clock in the morning.” It also riles him that many so-called Gotham outfits have only resided in Williamsburg for a few months. “That’s not what a New York City rock ’n’ roll band is,” he says. “So there’s some of that in our album, too, like, ‘Fuck you. We’re here, and this is the real deal’.”

Why regroup now? The timing was just right, Sage says. Year after year, D Gen kept getting reunion offers from Spain, until the band finally accepted. That turned into more overseas dates, then testing the songwriting waters, then cranking out more than 50 kinetic rockers. After tentatively recording more than a dozen cuts with Ryan Adams producing, the group opted to let Sage take the reins, track- ing the material cheaply—and more garage- gutteral—in his basement studio. “We’re huge Ramones, Clash, Pistols and Cheap Trick fans,” he says. “We wanted it to be murky and nasty, like the first Cheap Trick album.”

Politically, D Generation thought returning in this positively surreal election year made sense, too. “It’s like a Nero thing,” he says. “If the fall of Rome is going to happen, you need a little fiddling while it’s all going down. So crank up our album—play it as loud as you can!”

—Tom Lanham

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Ruby Friedman Orchestra: Quiet Songs Of Devastation

Ruby

With Gem, Ruby Friedman Orchestra keeps it real

Ruby Friedman is a rocker, but the songs on Gem, her debut album, don’t rock in the traditional sense. The music is dark, slow and menacing, full of violent frustration and shattered expectations. Her orchestra teases unexpected sounds out of their instruments to complement her bleak lyrics. The distorted twang of a honky-tonk guitar clashes with the grainy sound of a banjo that sounds like it was sampled from an old Edison cylinder recording. Friedman’s vocals are full of intense emotion, as she explores a landscape littered with aching hearts and unfulfilled dreams.

“There is no paucity of ‘pep yourself up and be happy’ songs out there,” says Friedman, “but it’s a struggle for me to feel authentic in a world that’s so broken and twisted. I can’t sing that happy crap. I feel people struggling around me, the sensitive ones mostly, so these songs aren’t grim to me. I call them real.”

The sounds on Gem suggest a sci-fi spaghetti-Western, with hints of gospel and country floating through the mix. “This is what happens when one is allowed to use all their inspiration and influence, without being coerced by commercially interested corporations, imagining themselves tastemakers,” says Friedman. “I took opera training when I was six, but my first boyfriend played rockabilly guitar. He turned me onto Mahalia Jackson, Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Bessie Smith. He encouraged me to start writing, but I don’t write unless it feels like I’ll die if I don’t. I have a love/hate relationship with this calling of mine. The chorus of ‘Fugue In L.A. Minor’ appeared to me in a bathtub in Los Angeles, the verses came out in Brooklyn right after Lou Reed died, and I’m singing it in the style of Bessie Smith meets Jerry Lee Lewis, so go figure.”

—j. poet

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Katie Kim: The Story Of Her Life

KatieKim

Katie Kim opens the Flood gates with her sophomore album

Irish autuer Katie Sullivan—who, as Katie Kim, home-records ethereal, loop-based folktronica like her recent Cover & Flood sophomore album—has plenty of frustrated yarns about the music busi – ness. And they all end with the same resigned admission: “Well, that’s the story of my life.”

Mike Scott hired her for the Waterboys’ 2011 effort An Appointment With Mr. Yeats and a subsequent European tour, but her duties ended there—she didn’t make it to these shores for its American run. And she helped compose a modern soundtrack to 1928 French silent film The Seashell And The Clergyman—which she performed live with her sextet at the time, plus some music for a U.K. TV series, Final Witness. But she hasn’t received any scoring offers since. Subsequently, the other five members scattered. “They’re now all over the world, doing other things, and I still don’t really like playing live by myself,” she says. “But I have to do it when I have to do it.”

Kim knows she doth protest too much, as things are going pretty well for her these days. The 20-cut Flood is finally reissued Stateside, and she’s put the finishing touches on its follow-up Salt (hitting shelves this autumn), in an actual high-tech studio in Dublin. “It’s much bigger, more ambitious-sounding,” she assesses of its 10 songs, including “Ghosts,” “Thieves” and “I Make Sparks.” But her actual biography is a fun, quirky one that leads almost inexorably to where she is today. Her quiet childhood in the lush Irish hamlet of Waterford was jump-started when she discovered singalong musicals such as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

“And then I just fell in love with Queen,” says Kim. “I think I was 10 at the time, and that’s where my love of vocals came from. Because there were hundreds of them, just a choir of Freddie Mercurys, and I was like, ‘How is he doing this?’”

Then, she grew obsessed with Mariah Carey, even magic-markering the pop diva’s name across her knuckles and plastering posters at home. “My mother got really worried about me—it was very disturbing,” she chuckles. Later, she discovered Dylan, Bowie, Dory Previn and, finally, Leonard Cohen, which provided an aesthetic template for her first acoustic-strummed originals. To perfect her craft, Kim studied music theory in college. It only annoyed her.

“So I spent my college money on a computer and Pro Tools and started recording in my bedroom, and that brings us up to date,” she says.

And she’s proud of the moody atmospherics she DIY-achieved on Flood processionals like “Charlie,” “Blood Bean” and “The Feast,” all held together by her whispery, semi-detached vocals.

“But the music world is funny these days, and not the one I grew up imagining when I was dreaming of becoming this romantic musician,” she says. “People don’t really buy albums anymore and artists have to go on tour all the time just to make money—you really have no choice. Oh, well,” she sighs, adding—wait for it—“It’s the story of my life.”

—Tom Lanham

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Ziemba: The Art Of Songwriting

Ziemba

Ziemba’s music is doing the modern dance

Hope Is Never, the debut album from René Kladzyk (who performs as Ziemba), opens with “It Curls Itself,” a shimmering a cappella piece that describes the slow dance of a flower as it stretches out its leafy fingers to grasp the springtime sun. Her multitracked voice creates iridescent layers of harmony that echo in a vast, cathedral-like space.

“There’s something powerful and freeing about the vulnerability of vocal expression, especially a cappella vocals,” says Kladzyk. “It feels challenging to sing in a way that forces lyrical content into the clear, bright light, but that discomfort makes me feel rebellious and powerful.”

Kladzyk covers a lot of ground on the album, blending indie rock and dreamy synthesizer ballads, often graced by string and choral arrangements that could fit easily into the modern classical repertoire. Those elements come together on “Set Me As A Seal,” where Kladzyk’s aching vocal brushes against a dissonant string section and a rock-solid rhythm section.

“My vocals are first accompanied by a string quartet, then by a full band, with a host of synths dancing around the string players,” she says. “Toward the end of the song, the strings are making sounds that remind me of dolphins talking, and the synths are responding in gurgles and jabs. It sounds like two alien languages swirling around each other.”

When she’s not writing songs, Kladzyk composes for dance companies and her own multimedia presentations, fascinated by the ways different situations can shape the music.

“I don’t differentiate art from music, or my identity as an artist vs. musician,” she says. “I choose to create work that explores performance, sound and movement. Making music can ground the musician or the listener in their body, or produce feelings of ecstatic transcendence. I’m drawn to work that ties threads between mediums that are often understood as disconnected.”

—j. poet

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Leland Sundries: Loss And Found

LelandSundries

Leland Sundries makes music from, for and about outcasts

When Nick Loss-Eaton looked at the songs he’d written for what would become the debut full-length for his band Leland Sundries, he thought, “What am I going to do with these?” Some were rootsier, folk-based tunes that fit in with his previous releases—two studio EPs, a single, a live EP—that worked when Leland Sundries was basically a solo project. Others were straight-up rock ‘n’ roll songs that demanded full, electric-band treatments.

Personally, he was going through transitions. “Part of the story of this record is that between the start of writing the record and finishing demoing and recording, I got sober,” says Loss-Eaton from his Brooklyn home. “I think there’s this subtext that I see in a bunch of different songs.” And somewhere in there, he had open-heart surgery.

The rock stuff won out, barely. He wanted a ’70s-influenced vibe, informed by bands like the New York Dolls and Exile On Main Street-era Stones, but also more modern artists like Spoon. Loss-Eaton, who works as a music publicist by day, writes character-based songs with titles such as “Stripper From Bensonhurst.” Whether the songs rock out, as on the stuttering “Bad Hair Day” or are more pensive, like the twangy “Maps Of The West,” they’re connected by the stories they tell.

Hence the record’s title: Music For Outcasts. “I feel like all these characters are trying to get to someplace, but they’re kind of lost,” he says.

“I was really concerned with how I would tie these things together,” he says. “We have a country waltz, but we also have something like a late-’70s power-pop song; we have this kind of garage/punk thing on there; we have another Americana song, but it has a synth on the bridge. What’s the common thread here? I’m writing for people who feel like they don’t fit in. Whatever that means.”

—Steve Klinge

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Thalia Zedek Band: Down To The Essence

ThaliaZedek

Eve shows off the Thalia Zedek Band’s impressive musical range

“I’ve been looking for ways to make our sound sparser,” Thalia Zedek says, describing the quiet, introspective sound of Eve, the new Thalia Zedek Band album. “I have an outlet for the louder, angular, more jarring stuff with my band E, which explores electronics, noise and unusual sounds. This band is evolving into something slightly different, with a songwriter-type vibe. It’s not mellow, but it’s more restrained than the experimental stuff I’ve done in the past.”

Zedek made her name playing her singular brand of ear-splitting, dissonant lead guitar with Come, Uzi and Live Skull, outfits known for their fierce approach to performing and recording. Her music with the Thalia Zedek Band may not be as loud, but it has the same level of emotional intensity that’s always been her trademark.

“This record is darker than the last few albums,” she says. “We’re living in an era of great uncertainty. The U.S. is less isolated from the rest of the world, and economically everything is more tied together. The internet allows people to access news and culture from around the world, and the climate has been changing radically, in both senses of the word. In Boston, we just had the hottest day ever recorded. I feel like we are on the eve of something momentous. It may be the eve of a new era, or the eve of destruction, I don’t know.”

Eve was recorded with Zedek’s touring band—David Michael Curry on viola, Mel Lederman on piano, bassist Winston Braman and drummer Jonathan Ulman. “Jonathan plays in a spare, stripped-down style,” says Zedek. “He fits the more introspective sound we’re going for. This time, we recorded a fair amount of songs that we hadn’t played live before we recorded them. When you’re writing in the studio, it lends a di erent, more reflective feel to the music.”

The arrangements on the album show off the band’s range. Hints of country, pop, blues, folk, R&B and modern classical surface as the music unspools. Zedek’s guitar ebbs and flows—sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric—giving the viola and piano room to come forward.

“We all write our own parts, and since none of us can read music, it’s all done by ear,” she says. “My only job as producer is to make sure all the instruments have enough room to allow us all to be expressive.”

Lederman’s piano introduction to “Illumination” suggests Eric Satie’s melodic approach; the subtle funk of “Try Again” opens with Zedek playing a killer guitar hook and slowly builds to a dark climax, driven by Curry’s brooding viola, while “You Will Wake” is a dreamy, country blues carried almost entirely by Zedek’s guitar and vocals; she almost croons the lyric, her singing stronger, more melodic and nuanced than on previous outings.

“I quit smoking in 2008,” she says. “I’ve also been doing more shows playing solo. You learn a lot about your voice when you don’t have to compete with other instruments to be heard. I recommend quitting smoking to any singers out there.” —j. poet

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Lisa Prank: Smells Like Teen Spirit

LisaPrank

Lisa Prank makes pure pop for punk people

Lisa Prank plays electric guitar with an inspiring command of power and nuance. The 11 tunes on Adult Teen, her debut album, capture the insouciant energy and upbeat confidence that makes punk rock irresistible. She combines bright, infuriatingly catchy bursts of melody with introspective lyrics that give the songs a vulnerable emotional depth.

“It’s fun to be onstage and play guitar, but it’s a rare thing when everything goes right in my life,” Prank says from her Seattle home. “When I’m feeling something intensely and need to express it, I go into my room and write a song.”

Onstage, Prank often appears alone, generating the sound of a full band with a Roland drum machine and her fervent singing and aggressive, rhythmic guitar attack. With the help of a few friends, she fleshed out her sound on Adult Teen, producing one of the best punk albums in recent memory.

“I live in a house with three members of Tacocat,” she says. “We recorded the album in my bedroom, so I could sing in my pajamas and be comfortable. Tacocat guitarist Eric and I worked whenever we had free time, so it was more like hanging out than making an album.”

Prank met the Tacocat gang when she was living in Denver, playing in her first band, LustCats Of The Gutters. “My friend Alex played drums, and I played guitar,” she says. “We were both learning our instruments, and it was super fun to play with her. I’d set up gigs for Tacocat when they came through town, and they’d set up things for me in Seattle. I always thought that if I lived in Seattle, we’d be best friends and hang out all the time. When I came out here, I moved in with them, and it all turned out to be true.”

— j. poet

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Mick Harvey: Not Lost In Translation

MickHarvey

Former Bad Seed Mick Harvey brings you his love for Serge Gainsbourg once again

About 20 years ago, Mick Harvey put out two records of Serge Gainsbourg songs, 1995’s Intoxicated Man and 1997’s Pink Elephants. The multi-instrumentalist was firmly entrenched in the Bad Seeds, the band he started with Nick Cave after the end of the Birthday Party, and had just begun working with PJ Harvey, joining her for 1995’s To Bring You My Love. The Gainsbourg records were his first solo albums.

Since then, the 57-year-old Harvey has released four more solo LPs, some of cover versions, some of his own songs. He ended his 25-year tenure in the Bad Seeds in 2009, but he’s continued to work with PJ Harvey: He coproduced 2000’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and 2011’s Let England Shake. When MAGNET caught up with him to talk about Delirium Tremens, his new album of Gainsbourg covers, he was in London in rehearsals for the world tour for her new record, The Hope Demolition Project.

Two decades ago, Serge Gainsbourg, who died in 1991, was lesser known outside of his native France than he is today. Harvey became fascinated by the depth and breadth of Gainsbourg’s work when a friend passed along a compilation tape, and he set about translating the lyrics into English and recasting songs such as “Bonnie And Clyde” and “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus.”

“They are covers in the old sense of a cover version, where you actually record the song in a similar way to the original one,” he says. “I always thought I could justify doing that because I’m doing a translation. But the European terminology is ‘interpretation.’ I think that’s the better term. After I’d done the first couple albums, I’d done what I wanted to do at that time.”

In 2014, Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants were reissued as a double LP, and Harvey, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, played a few shows of Gainsbourg numbers.

“It turned out to be fun and kind of ridiculous, just getting up there and playing music as some sort of entertainment, which is quite unusual to me, as opposed to getting up there and doing something as a difficult artwork, which is what I find myself doing or what I think I’m doing,” he says. “So that turned into thinking about doing more work.”

He revisited some of the songs he considered the first time around and ended up delving more deeply into tunes that Gainsbourg wrote for other artists in the ’60s. Then began the time-consuming process of translating the lyrics. Harvey wanted to do translations that were faithful to the originals in meaning as well as in rhyme and meter, and that was often a challenge. “He’s really quite clever, what he’s doing with words,” says Harvey.

Once he got started, he ended up with enough material for two albums, Delirium plus a second, which is slated for later this year. Harvey says it seemed “absurd” to just do one Gainsbourg album after 20 years: “That would have felt out of proportion, in some way.”

Asked which Gainsbourg album he would recommend to a neophyte, Harvey hesitates. “His material changes so much over the years,” he says. “I think something from the late ’60s. He was in a very creative and musical stage because of the nature of what was going on at the time in rock music and pop music.” He finally settles on 1968’s Initials B.B. (for Brigitte Bardot): “That’s probably the album you want to get.”

—Steve Klinge

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Band Of Horses: One Of The Girls

BandOfHorses

Fatherhood and writer’s block fuel Band Of Horses’ new homebody opus

Sharing a living space with five females can do weird things to a guy.

It can compel him to say things like, “I’ve got a lot of love in my heart,” to a theater full of 1,200 frothing fans. It might also prompt the same father of four girls to issue a conciliatory ultimatum to the ranting dickhead who’d just reached onto the stage and quaffed his drink mid-song. “You paid good money to come here, man. Just be cool, and you can stay,” urged Band Of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell.

Security guards had other ideas, escorting the irate fan out of Wilmington, Del.’s Playhouse on Rodney Square to chants of “Asshole, asshole” from the rest of the crowd.

“Sorry, ya’ll,” said Bridwell, ever the Southern gentleman, as the band quickly re-harnessed the positive energy of its first full-scale, plugged-in performance in quite some time. “Seriously, ya’ll are great.”

In a May 21 dry run for their summer tour, Band Of Horses kicked things off with the first four songs from their new album, Why Are You OK (Interscope/American). Reserved seating quickly became a moot point as the audience rushed the stage, prompting a wide smile from typically stoic guitarist Tyler Ramsey. A half-dozen songs into the fierce 90-minute set, everyone in the group—Ramsey, Bridwell, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Monroe, bassist Bill Reynolds and drummer Creighton Barrett—was grinning from ear to ear.

It was three weeks before the release of Why Are You OK, and a few fans were already screaming for the first single. Catchier than a norovirus on a Disney cruise, “Casual Party” could be considered the domesticated sequel to “Weed Party,” from the group’s 2006 debut. “‘Weed Party’ is really the same song as ‘Laredo’ and ‘Casual,’” says Bridwell in a backstage interview before the show, nursing a bottle of Miller Lite and tugging on his beard as he responds. “I forget that I’m rewriting the same chord structures over and over—but I’m grateful for it.”

Bridwell has never been shy about acknowledging his limitations or when he’s been pushed beyond them. That, by and large, is how he describes 2012’s Mirage Rock, BOH’s minor fiasco of a classic-rock experiment with storied producer Glyn Johns—an album that alienated some fans. “It’s currently the black sheep (of our catalog). We were gearing the material to what he liked, whether we knew it or not,” says Bridwell of the collaboration with Johns, whose many credits include Who’s Next, Desperado and Led Zeppelin’s debut.

The whole experience did a job on Bridwell’s confidence, and he found himself at a creative impasse when it came time write his next batch of tunes. “I was gun shy as hell from the last record,” he says. “I was going for the clever wordplay before I even figured out what the story was.”

Produced by Jason Lytle, nudged toward the finish line by Rick Rubin and mixed by Dave Fridmann, Why Are You OK is a return to form for Band Of Horses—the point of reference being the epic wistfulness and exacting studio craft of 2010’s Grammy-nominated Infinite Arms. Like that record, just about everything on Why Are You OK was fretted over, reworked, refined and fretted over some more. Curiously, one of its best tracks, “In A Drawer”—with its guest vocal from J Mascis—is actually an extensively revised leftover from the Infinite Arms sessions. “We were tweaking this album until the very end,” says Bridwell.

But while Infinite is lush, layered and tightly honed, Why has an airy open-endedness befitting its title. Melodies meander and textures unravel as Bridwell mulls the duality of fatherhood and the samey nuances of the homebody lifestyle. One minute, he’s reveling in the boredom and predictability of domestic life on the album’s ambling bookends “Dull Times: The Moon” and “Even Still”; the next, he’s contemplating an untimely exit (“Barrel House”) and questioning his sanity (“Throw My Mess”).

“It’s about the balance of family and this crazy life I’m living,” says Bridwell. “It’s just busy as hell at home. When I’ve been away awhile, my wife will throw a baby at me as soon as I get in the door. I can’t be askin’ to go spend a week in a cabin to possibly write a song or something.”

Uncertainty in the face of mounting obligations is a common thread running through the tracks, most of which were written by Bridwell at home during the off hours between carting around his girls, changing diapers, fixing meals and generally carrying his own weight as a husband and dad. “We built this home in Mount Pleasant, just across the river from Charleston,” says Bridwell. “All the houses have to be on stilts because of the floodplain, so there’s this big garage. I just found a corner and hung out down there quite a bit,. There’s a whole lot of real life in this album— and even if that sounds boring, it’s not boring to me. It’s fuckin’ crazy.”

—Hobart Rowland

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