Fold

Fold

 

LYRICS:  In the prime of my youth, with nothing at all to lose, but having nothing is saying something, when all you’re needing is a little love.  & I’m too young to feel this old, & I’m too old to let it fold.  So order another round, we’ll give it one more try, give myself another chance to make me feel alright, order another round, we’ll give it one last try, give myself another chance to make it out alright.  If hindsight is perfect distance, then all I’ve seen is inconsistent, but seeing something all means nothing, if it’s not real or never had been.  & I’m too young to feel this old, & I’m too old to let it fold.  So order another round, we’ll give it one more try, give myself another chance to make me feel alright, order another round, we’ll give it one last try, give myself another chance to make it out alright.

INTERPRETATION:  “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat”.  This Fitzgerald quote comes to mind in reference to Fold, as its themes are preoccupied with a notion of worn perseverance.  It’s meant to convey a temperament somewhere between determination & despair; a dispositional compromise between retreat & resolve.

INSPIRATIOIN:  Ironically enough, Fold was written during an intermission for a multi-set Christmas themed gig I was playing at Jittery Joes (an Athens, GA based coffee house) back in 2006.  A man can only endure so many yuletide greetings before the holiday cheer becomes nauseating; ho ho ho, hum.

INSIGHT:  Fold was one of the trickier Shadowlands songs to produce.  Matt & I had originally planned to track the song as a mid tempo piano ballad, a la Ryan Adams’ La Cienega Just Smiled.  As we dug deeper into the arrangement process, we started to experiment with interchangeable melody lines & instrumentation; the piano parts were traded for acoustic guitar parts, the electric guitar parts were traded for piano parts, the synth accents were traded for down-tuned acoustics & keys, & natural brush kits were traded for electronic beats.  This deconstruction of the song ultimately allowed us to rebuild the arrangements using a blend of natural & synthetic textures.  Sequenced at the middle of the album, Fold best epitomizes Shadowlands’ attempt to intertwine traditional folk aesthetics with alternative sound design elements.

Nashville Skyline

Nashville Skyline

 

LYRICS:  Oh, the city lights, the way they shine, up here on the Nashville skyline, with a whiskey drink in tune to a country song, it’s how I’ll spend my time.   It’s how I’ll spend my time.  Songs of wayward love fill the smoky air, & I can’t bear to hear the sound, when with such things I compare.  It’s how I’ll spend my time, wishing you were mine.  So I’ll drink to you my dear, for when the answers are unclear, I’ll drink in tribute to my blues, the blues I have because of you.  I’ll wait around until all the bar doors close, & order one last round, drink it all before I go, & make my way to stumble home.  It’s how I’ll spend my time, wishing you were mine.  So I’ll drink to you my dear, for when the answers are unclear, I’ll drink in tribute to my blues, the blues I have because of you.

INTERPRETATION:  On his ‘69 release Nashville Skyline, Bob Dylan sang of the moon shining bright on everything in sight, only to conclude with the concession that no light will shine on me.  It’s precisely this shade of irony that colors the blackest hues of the blues; that sense of being surrounded by a whole that you don’t feel a part of.  In the same sense, big cities filled with bright lights, boisterous sounds, & volumes of people can often feel like the most isolating of environments.

INSPIRATION:  In 2008 I visited Nashville for the first time & had the brilliant idea to attempt a night of bourbon barhopping, which is essentially the asinine activity of sampling at least one shot of bourbon from each bar hopped, as it were.  Though in my naiveté, I failed to comprehend just how many bars the infamous Music City Strip has (for those unaware, the strip is nearly all bars).  Needless to say, this made for an eventful evening.  Nashville Skyline’s narrative isn’t necessarily a reenactment of that experience, but rather an homage to the breed of NashVegas barflies I encountered there.

INSIGHT:  Having been influenced by & written while in Nashville, I wanted the production for Nashville Skyline to be reminiscent of a Grand Ole Opry style country western/roots folk aesthetic.  Matt & I put aside our mutual obsession for synthetic sound design & effects pedals to bust out a lil’ rhythm guitar, mandolin, lap steel, & some ferocious fiddle-shredding courtesy of the amazingly talented Lauren Lebois.  We even narrowed the stereo field & stacked the mix to more closely imitate that old time Nashville sound.  & to top it off, we sequenced Nashville Skyline at the seventh track, landing Shadowland’s most country-influenced tune next to a song titled No Country – ‘cause it ain’t country less it come with a heavy helpin’ of irony.

No Country

No Country

 

LYRICS:  If I could start again & erase the years, don’t know where I’d begin, but I’d try to find a rhyme in all my reason, but it only feels like treason when there’s no country for old men, how can we start again with no place to begin?  When there’s no country for old men.  If I could turn back time, to fast-forward or rewind, I don’t know what I’d find?  But I’d try to find a rhyme in all my reason, but it only feels like treason when there’s no country for old men, how can we start again with no place to begin?  When there’s no country for old men, for old men.

INTERPRETATION:  “I always liked to hear about the old-timers. Never missed a chance to do so. You can’t help but compare yourself against the old-timers. Can’t help but wonder how they would have operated in these times…”

~Ed Tom Bell  (No Country for Old Men)

How does one justify ethical objectivity within a societal hierarchy that has foregone moral absolutism in favor of subjective relativism?  In a meta-ethical sense, the moral objectivist is an old-timer, out of place within the modernist paradigm of subjectivism; a citizen without a country.

INSPIRATION:  I wrote No Country immediately after seeing No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers’ exceptional film adaptation of the brutal Cormac McCarthy novel by the same name.  The combination of Cormac’s bleak philosophical themes & the Coen’s methodically layered presentation make for an unshakable experience.  Lyrically, I wanted to echo McCarthy’s threading theme of displacement, coupled with a sparse instrumental minimalism to parallel the film’s vacuous moral/physical landscape.

http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2012/09/21/ep63-cormac-mccarthy/

INSIGHT:  The primary acoustic guitar/vocal track was recorded together live in a free-time meter, as to further emphasize the motif of structurelessness.  The acoustic guitar chord voicings are also minimal, holding down only two strings per chording to yield dissonant expressions.  The drum tracks were recorded last, playing against off-tempo measures to reiterate tension.  We chose not to filter out any hiss or room-noise from the live tracking, adding to the soundscape’s arid ambience.

On Our Way

On Our Way

 

LYRICS:  Love-drunk with the obsession at the first sight of your reflection, you have found a way to catch my eye, feeling so high up in the clouds with the angels dancing around, your love makes me feel alive.  & if you told me, ‘let’s leave here tonight in search of better places & new faces’, that’s all you’d have to say, then we’d be on our way.  On a Sunday the working begins, working so hard to afford expenses so we can make it day to day, driving out of town so far away, got to fall asleep without you next to me, but I know that’s where you should be.  & if you told me, ‘let’s leave here tonight in search of better places & new faces’, that’s all you’d had to say, now we are on our way.

INTERPRETATION:   “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people & they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?  It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, & it’s good-bye.  But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”  ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

With On Our Way, I simply wanted to capture the elation of love & the open road; the ceaseless sojourner that resides within each of us, longing for life & freedom.

INSPIRATION:  Throughout all of my twenties, I had the pleasure of traveling extensively, be it locally, regionally, or nationally.  In a whirlwind of mileage, destinations, landmarks, locations, people, & places, you can’t help but be swept up in the wonder of it all.

INSIGHT:  Aside from being one of the few relatively ‘upbeat’ songs off the record, On Our Way is also one of the only tracks on Shadowlands to feature mainly electric guitar (Fender Lite Ash & Mexican Telecasters) in addition to the only track which features a traditional guitar solo – courtesy of mastermind Matthew Smith.  \m/

Shell Shine

Shell Shine

 

LYRICS:  Left my ghost on the Carolina coast with the ever-fading glimpse of a quickly dying hope that the ghost of your love would find me there, all the marble headstones could make for a quiet home, because without your love, this is where I belong.  I’m an empty shell of a man, trying to make his way back to heaven, because life without love is too much like hell, where the coldest of hearts are like treasures for the devil, the more I cry the brighter they shine.  Burned my dreams with kerosene flame & a gasoline breath to smoke out the pain of our oldest memories that no longer serve me well, sold our old townhome & paid off all our loans, I’ll do anything these days to feel a little more complete.  I’m an empty shell of a man, trying to make his way back to heaven, because life without love is too much like hell, where the coldest of hearts are like treasures for the devil, the more I cry the brighter they shine.

INTERPRETATION:  “From the depths of that mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.”  Anyone who’s read Night, Elie Wiesel’s chilling depiction of the Holocaust horrors experienced at Auschwitz during the peak of the Second World War, will never forget that closing passage.  Suffering corrodes the human spirit, from the gratuitous evils of human nature down to the faintly persistent pangs of human loneliness.  Wiesel spoke of an erosion that obliterates self-identity, rendering his own reflection alien; leaving him merely a shell of a man.  Shell Shine clearly concerns itself with a far more moderate form of corroding fatigue, yet its central theme is very much concerned with the same hollowing of self.

INSPIRATION:  Shell Shine is more or less a continuation of the character depicted in Pearl Jam’s 2002 folk ballad, Thumbing My Way.  Vedder has stated that the concept is about hitchhiking your way through a broken heart.  I love that song & its themes, & wanted to further the idea by navigating the loss of identity – both a personal identity, in addition to an identity we find through others.

INSIGHT:  Shell Shine’s Carolina cemetery setting was prompted by a tour I took through one of Charleston, South Carolina’s oldest historic burial grounds.

Call It Quits

Call It Quits

 

LYRICS:  Couldn’t believe you if I tried, won’t even look me in the eye, & if you did I’d have to lie, because you know it’s never fine, & if you could just take the time, because we ain’t seeing eye to eye, you know this shit ain’t going to fly so close to the fan.  Everyone knows that the ceiling could never be high enough to keep up with where your head’s been.  To tell you the truth, I’ve grown so tired, & I’m really just sick of this.  So who’s going to be the first one to call it quits?

INTERPRETATION:  The canons of modern day pop music are replete with love songs; narratives detailing the subject of falling into, being within, & aching without love.  But few concern themselves with the wearisome reality regarding the fall out of love.  Sometimes the descent is guillotine quick, & then sometimes it’s painfully prolonged; the proverbial snail across a razorblade.  French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre described this drawn-out dirge of resentment & self-deception as an act of bad faith, in the sense that individuals willingly deny their authenticity in order to save face in light of social constructs & misguided values.  Sometimes, the most ethical route towards truth is through the exit.

INSPIRATION:  Melodically, Call It Quits was influenced by the works of yet another Seattle-based indie folk troubadour, Rocky Votolato.  His penchant for raw acoustic arrangements paired with oft-urgent vocals engendered a fitting tonal template with which to approach the subject matter.

INSIGHT:  Call It Quits is arguably Shadowlands’ most rhythmic composition, largely thanks to bass guitar tracks courtesy of Atlanta singer-songwriter Michael Levine.  Initially, the song was intended to have more of an ambient Radiohead-esque cadence, but Matt & I couldn’t quite find the right fit for that particular mood.  After scrapping a few attempts, we sent the song over to Michael in hopes that his perspective would lend us a new direction – which it most certainly did.  Levine took vibes coldly abstract & shaped them into rhythms infused with Latin & salsa flourishes.  This turn of tone led to an onslaught of percussive elements to be added into the production.  Having been a fan of Michael’s music for years, it was such an honor to have him contribute to mine.  Definitely one of Shadowlands’  highlights for me personally.

Deal

Deal

 

LYRICS:  & you know you’re getting towards the end when your only friend is the bottle in your hand.  & you know you can’t get any lower when you’re never sober to feel the pain.  So tell me how am I supposed to feel, when I don’t want to feel a thing?  Tell me how am I supposed to be, when I can’t ever let it be?  I can’t let it be, it’s just the way I deal.  & you can save up your whole life, but you can never buy love because it comes for free.  But is it worth the price you’ll pay?  For a heavy heart will outweigh the cost in the end.  So tell me how am I supposed to feel, when I don’t want to feel a thing?  Tell me how am I supposed to be, when I can’t ever let it be?  I can’t let it be, it’s just the way I deal.  In the game of life, in the game of love, it’s just how I deal.

INTERPRETATION:  I could sit here & analyze my every anxiety, mine the depths of my neuroses & equivocate each resulting indulgence… but I won’t.  I suppose any dilemma can be either accosted or avoided, sometimes it’s easier to choose the ladder.  As Bukowski put it, “That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; & if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”

 INSPIRATION:  Deal, along with a few other tracks off the first half of Shadowlands, was originally written as potential material for an Americana folk-rock band some friends & I attempted to establish in the mid/late 00’s.  Writing specifically within the milieu of country-western & roots rock genres made it that much easier to willingly do-si-do down into the Americana rabbit hole.  & while nothing much ever came of our little revival rock dry run, I ultimately emerged from the proverbial whiskey-soaked Wonderland with a pocketful of folk tunes & a hankerin’ to continue writing ‘em… or so the story goes.

INSIGHT:  The journey a folk song will take from its intimate inception to its eventual recorded studio version can often be rather drastic.  By the time you track drums, bass, auxiliary instrumentation, keys, & backing vocals, what began as a minimal expression quickly builds into a layered orchestration.  This was the case for many of the songs on Shadowlands, though not for Deal.   I had always envisioned the studio version adhering to a traditional country-western mix; rustic steel-string acoustics, shimmery Telecaster vibratos, soaring tonewheel organ, cool upright bass, warm brush kit, clean vocals with natural room reverb, etc.  What I hadn’t expected was to incorporate structural space for a righteous piano solo, courtesy of mastermind Matthew Smith?!  He reached down & pulled that one deep out of the Summerteeth era Wilco wilderness – totally sells the tune.  I can’t image the arrangement now without it.

Midnight Train

Midnight Train

 

LYRICS:  Closure, come to find when given time, appropriate to fit the crime, patience to walk that line, to walk that line.  The straight & narrow, assume as borrowed.  The straight & narrow is soon to follow.  Faith, remaining sane, it’s like waiting for the year to change, it’s like waiting for the midnight train.  The straight & narrow, assume as borrowed.  The straight & narrow is soon to follow.

INTERPRETATION:  Thematically, Midnight Train concerns itself with concepts of Self-Identity & Operant Conditioning.  It’s about the choices & behaviors we initiate as individuals, & then navigating through their corresponding consequences.  It’s a song about outcomes, conclusions, & making decisions that will eventually yield results you can identify as positive or negative; specific correlations between cause & effect.

INSPIRATION:  Midnight Train was written on a rainy Wednesday evening back in October of 2006.  It was the 11th, to be exact.  I recall this specifically because I had just returned from seeing Seattle folk rock pioneer Damien Jurado perform at The Earl in East Atlanta.  He was on tour supporting his 6th studio LP And Now That I’m In Your Shadow, an album that would go on to influence the bulk of my songwriting for Shadowlands.  Taking its cue from Jurado’s Denton, TX, the guitar is capoed high & exhibits a minimal song structure in regards to chording, progression, & melody.

INSIGHT:  Of Shadowlands’ 16 tracks, Midnight Train was the first song written in addition to the first song recorded for the album.  It’s also the opening track, as I’ve always been fond of openers that tow a more moderately subtle tone.  There’s also a thematic irony about beginning an album with the word closure, within a song about conclusions.  As opposed to my usual methodically tedious form of songwriting where instrumentation, lyrics, & melody are all constructed separately, Midnight Train was built abstractly, all parts written within one sitting via free association.  I played & penned the parts as they came to me, letting the song write itself.  Ultimately, I ended up using this subconscious way of songwriting for about half of the songs on Shadowlands, as it provided a nice change of pace from my more meticulous means.

Shadowlands: a Prologue

bedroom

 

“One has to have endured a few decades before wanting, let alone needing, to embark on the project of recovering lost life…”  ~Christopher Hitchens

With each passing year, I find my reliance on reminiscence to be an all-encompassing endeavor.  As my yesterdays amass, I can’t help but sift through an endless sea of memories.  Having recently turned 30 further sharpens this nostalgia.  Looking back over the past decade, my roaring twenties, the sentiment is saccharine, even for the melancholy.  It seems recollection is peculiarly remedial in its own right.  But one can’t recover all that’s been lost in life until the loss has been defined, confronted, & eventually accepted.  As Carl Jung put it, a man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.  Far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

Is it even possible to ever fully grasp the purpose of mere being?  I don’t know.  But I do understand the darkness; shadows cast by obstructed light.  Maybe navigating the existential conundrums of our twenty-something charades is par for the course, a right of entry to finally embark on the project of recovery.  In the same way I sift through memories, I’ve sifted through shadowlands.  & in wading through this inferno I’ve kept a record, in my case, quite literally so.

Shadowlands is the record I’ve been working on over the past 4 years.  With the guidance of producer/musician/songwriter/world-class badass Matthew Smith, we’ve crafted something I’m profoundly proud of.  For me personally, these aren’t just folk songs – they’re manifestations from a decade’s worth of life, loss, love, laments, lessons, & levity.  This collection of songs provides a tangibility that memories alone can’t attain.  My hope in sharing this record is that you might, if only for a fleeting moment, identify with something expressed, something that just might provide the slightest kindling of light amid your journey through the darkness of life’s shadowlands.

Throughout the coming months, I’ll be sharing songs from Shadowlands, complete with accompanying lyrics, interpretations, inspirations, commentary, & additional media related to each track.

Eventually I’ll get around to completing artwork, manufacturing, & distribution for the record.  Until then, thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

~Chase Fiorenza