Track By Tracks: The Folks Around Town - Sun & Gloom (2020)


1. Revelations:

Revelations was the song that pushed us to make another record. We had been kicking around ideas back and forth, but this was the song that pushed us down the road. Musically, this is the first song we’ve made where the music was written before any of the lyrics or melodies. I sent Theja a bunch of guitar parts over basic drum loops and he arranged it into most of what you hear now. The words are about finding less than helpful ways to deal with feeling really low. Searching for solutions in all the wrong places. Its written in an absurd kind of way – the subject is trying to cope by inventing his own religion and finding some kind of revelation by staring into the sun. I wanted to paint a picture of someone unraveling into a manic state of mind, all over grandiose trumpets and big driving drums.

2. Alligator Swamp (underdressed):

Like a lot of the songs on Sun & Gloom, this one is also about failed attempts at coping. Alligator Swamp is about trying to fill whatever void in your life with material possessions. Early 2019, I found myself at a real low point. I finished grad school, moved back home and was unemployed for a while. I went from a really high stress environment in grad school to having absolutely nothing going on. I wasn’t hearing back from any jobs I applied to, myself selfesteem was in the trash, and I was playing a crazy amount of these really bad and obscure video games because that’s all they had at the library. Around then, I also found myself spending so much time online shopping. I had no money! I would have these horribly unhealthy thoughts where I’d tell myself “oh if I just had this one new microphone, I’d feel happy and complete and everything would be okay” or “maybe if I get this cool t-shirt or a pair of socks with a really clever design, I’d look exactly how I’ve wanted to look and things would be okay.” It was really messed up. Alligator Swamp is about that weird, murky period in my life. Musically, we were trying to venture into more groovy territory, having something be a bit more upbeat sounding while keeping our signature downer lyrics. I think we pulled it off!

3. Easy/Sunny/Fine:

Have you ever gotten sick of sunny weather? I moved to California last summer and didn’t really know anyone close to where I was living. I found myself so lonely and bummed out in this sunny, beautiful, perfect-weather-all-the-time place. There’d be days where I would wish for rain because I was tired of bright days with nothing to do or no one to see. There are only so many walks I can take myself on! When winter rolled around, it remained more or less bright and warm here. I’m from Canada and really love the snow and winter so I was just a bit uncomfortable all year. While all this was going on, we had a madman running the country and cops killing innocent black people and it seemed like the country was in a state of chaos. Easy/Sunny/Fine is what inspired the title of the record, Sun & Gloom, and encapsulates the overall theme of this project. It is all about finding little lies to tell yourself to stay sane and more or less ok.

4. Had I Loved Her More (Fancy Clothes):

This song, for the longest time, was just the acoustic guitar you hear in the intro over a drum loop. It was very basic and honestly, very boring. I was so occupied with getting the lyrics and melody right, I ended up neglecting the music. Thankfully, Theja really knocked the music out of the park and also pushed me to make it more interesting. Our collaborator, Alex Card, helped shake things up with his lead guitar lines. Thanks guys! It is fairly obvious what the song is about, but I wanted to bring something unique to the table. To do that, I wrote it from the perspective of a narcissist slowly coming to terms with the idea that they may have been flawed person in a relationship. They do all these absurd things like pretend to be a robot digging their own grave, feeding ducks in a park while donning a golden suit, and so on while the real crux is simple and straightforward – the person would still be around if you tried harder to make it work.

5. Find Me:

Find Me has been around since 2013. The first iteration of this band was with some of my best friends who I met in college. This was one of the songs that would always get a good reaction from the crowd. Back then, it was a very basic song with us just playing louder and louder as it went on until the end where I’d sing the last part solo. I had tried to rearrange this song for our last album Basement Years too, but I just wasn’t able to pull it off. This took a lot of effort in arranging and I think back then I didn’t have the skillset needed to get it right. I also didn’t have Theja! When I sent him this song, he unexpectedly added tablas (the Indian hand percussion you hear) and that set me down a path of getting the alaap (vocal solo-esq part you hear in the interlude) sample. Now those are my favourite things about this song!

Lyrically, it is about being on the losing end of a fight with your brain. I wrote the song at a point where I felt done even trying to put up a fight against whatever I was going through at the time. Find Me is very fitting for this album because it was written at a time where my life was so go-go-go, sunny and upbeat while I was feeling really low. Although this one doesn’t try to hide it under upbeat music – much like the lyrical theme, the music gives into the melancholy as well.

6. Oblivion:

I love a good downer ballad, and this is our take on one. Oblivion came together pretty quickly and we made an active effort to not clutter it with too much noise so that the lyrics and vocal melody could be front and center. This song means a lot to me because it was how I came to terms with a lot of things I had been dealing with for a long time, but also served as a vessel to root for myself with. I use the song to acknowledge the burdens my issues have placed on my loved ones and thank them for their support too. The chorus specifically, I wrote as a reminder to myself that things would get better and improve. Its deeply personal and very special to me. I was on the fence about releasing it because I didn’t want something this private to be out on the internet for the world to hear but at the end of the day, I hope it can find its way to someone and help them the way that it helped me.

7. Lighter Skin:

Lighter Skin was one of the last songs written for the album. One big goal we had with Sun & Gloom was to heavily dial back the production – at least compared to our first record, Basement Years. We wanted to make do with less and not rely on studio tricks. That rule spawned Lighter Skin, a song where we stick to the “drums, guitar, bass and keys” structure but with using very synth-y instruments. It turned into this cool sounding song! The lyrics came from a few different stories blended into one. At its core, the song is about a very significant relationship failing and the immediate aftermath. It was a bit awkward to write because I didn’t want the people it was about to know they were being referred to, so I hope I did a good job with burying the lead!

8. Oceans:

I had tried to finish writing and recording this song for so long! The skeleton of this song has been around since 2014 but I could never figure out where to take it and what I wanted the overall tone to be. It came about when I was experimenting with different tunings – I was trying to learn a riff from a Bon Iver song, which led me to a strange E-B- D#-F#-B-E tuning. Eventually the riff for this song was born and the words came out really easily after. People I’ve played this song to are often quick to call it depressing but that wasn’t my intention with it at all. To me, it was more about being a small moment in the infinite universe. I think the recurring line “as for me, I mean nothing to anyone at all” comes off very dark and dreary but it really is more about our place in the world and the transience of everything. Maybe that’s still kind of a downer but I didn’t intend for it to be.

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