Posts Tagged ‘Dead Oceans Records’

Timothy Showalter was done. Despite the acclaim that greeted Strand Of Oaks’ fifth album, Hard Love, the guitarist and songwriter found himself in a hole, and was on the verge of quitting music altogether. Then his friends in My Morning Jacket decided to pull him out, dragging him into the studio and providing an elite backing band to create his most impressive album yet, Eraserland.

“I didn’t really wanna do it anymore,” says Showalter, the artist also known as Strand Of Oaks. That’s quite an attention-grabbing admission, but in these clickbait-heavy times, he’s keen to emphasise that this isn’t just a good marketing line. “It’s not for dramatic press. I know that’s how this game works – put a fireworks show up so people wanna write about it. But when I was trying to explain the record to people, that’s the only way that I could. I think it was an identity crisis.”

Back in 2017, Tim was promoting and touring his new album, Hard Love, but despite the album being well received by both critics and fans, something wasn’t right. “I released Hard Love a year after I made it, and I was singing about someone who I wasn’t anymore,” he reflects. “I was pretty wild for a little while there. But over the course of that year making Hard Love and being home, I changed in a good way. I loved the record and playing those songs live, but I had this idea of, ‘What am I doing? I’ve been doing this for 10 years. Who am I?’”

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The changes may have been positive, but it coincided with Tim finding himself stuck in a rut, and unable to write new material, which in turn brought up a host of other issues. “Most of my life, playing guitar and singing, and writing songs, was an escape route out of anxiety and life,” he admits candidly. “That was my safe place… and then I was like, ‘Shit…’ Because being a musician is most of my identity – if you were to speak to friends or family, they would say: ‘Oh, he was really depressed.’ Like clinically depressed! But I equated it to, ‘I’m just not feeling the tunes right now!’”

Such was Tim’s disconnect from music at this time, he barely registered his label’s decision to take the wealth of unused material from the Hard Love sessions to create a brand-new album, Harder Love, which came out in 2018. “I forget that Harder Love even came out!” he exclaims. “I had very little to do with that. There was some good stuff on there, and the label kind of approached me and said: ‘People should at least hear these songs…’ And I’m like, ‘That sounds good. I’m gonna hike in the woods for a while!’”

And then something quite remarkable happened. “I got a phone call from my manager saying: ‘Are you making a record with My Morning Jacket?’ And I went, ‘What are you talking about?!’” Tim remembers. “He said: ‘WelI, I just got a call from all of them and they say they have studio time booked…’ and I didn’t have any songs written!”

Renowned indie-rock bands don’t just go around booking studio time with songwriters on a whim, and what was actually happening was something of a rock ’n’ roll intervention…

“They’re friends of mine, and the producer Kevin [Ratterman] is also a dear friend, and to their endless credit they caught wind that I wasn’t in a good spot, and they dropped everything,” he reflects wistfully. “For Chrissakes, Bo [Koster] the keyboard player… he’s Roger Waters’ keyboard player! And he had two weeks off in the midst of the The Wall Tour, and he decided to spend those two weeks with me in a studio in Louisville. It’s the last place he should have been – he should have been on a fuckin’ beach or something!

“My epiphany truly started when all these people started to come to my aid, and my first inclination was, ‘I need to write good songs, ’cos I can’t give this band mediocre shit!’ So I began writing the opposite of how I usually write – unselfishly! It gave me enough room to get out of my own head, and because of that, it became a pure form of expression that I couldn’t have planned on. And the songs just came – I don’t know where from! I still need to learn chords for half of them. I don’t remember writing them. I hope I did!”

Working with a very short deadline was a new one for Tim – “Sometimes I’ve written songs where there’s like a three-year gap between writing a song and putting out a record,” he admits – and with just a few short weeks to write an album, he headed for the beach to write…

“I love beaches in the off-season,” Tim explains. “I don’t know why, it’s just romantic. It looks like death, but a beautiful death! And the songs just kinda varied depending on my mood from day to day, or even what the weather was like at the beach! Like if it was a rainy day, it would be more introspective, but if it was sunny, the major chords would come flying. It all happened so fast.”

If the writing and demoing process was a breeze, when it came to recording, the reality of the shoes he was filling rendered things a lot less comfortable. “I had a panic attack the first day at the studio, because we recorded everything live in this huge room, and I was standing where [MMJ frontman] Jim James should be standing!” Tim recalls. “And if anyone knows Jim James, I can’t sing like him – 99 per cent of the planet that’s ever existed can’t sing like him. I’m like, ‘What am I doing here!? I shouldn’t be allowed in this party!’

“But that night, the guys went for dinner and I stayed at the studio because I wanted to get my guitar tone working. And while I was there on my own, I walked around the studio and I saw that they all had extensive notes that they’d written. That to me, was like this moment of like, ‘Oh, they are so involved with this.’ This is not like when a label sets you up with a bunch of studio musicians. These are friends and they’re invested. Yes, they’re extremely accomplished and you look up to them, but this is not the moment to be starstruck. This is the moment to collaborate.”

With that hurdle overcome, the chemistry between Tim and the rest of the band was immediate and the recording process was remarkably smooth.

“It’s a testament to what good musicians they are,” he enthuses. “We really set ourselves up for failure, because we’d never played together before! But outside of maybe a few overdubs, everything was live. Even if it was nine minutes long. That’s the performance.”

Operating with that one-take mindset really gave Showalter an appreciation for how good his new backing band was, and one member in particular. “Tommy [Blankenship], the bass player, is a perfect bass player.” he insists. “After five days, a few of us went out for dinner, and he went somewhere else, and we had this realisation… ‘Guys, Tommy hasn’t messed up yet…’ He never hit a wrong note! You’re supposed to do something wrong, to make everyone else feel better! It’s like, ‘Tommy, please, I messed up my own lyrics on that last track!’”

When it came to the album’s guitar sounds, Tim found himself in the unusual position of not being the primary lead guitarist, with MMJ’s Carl Broemel filling that chair. “Usually, I have a ‘space station’ pedalboard and everything. But my stuff was really simple, it was strictly for rhythm,” Tim recalls. “I was mostly playing a Frankenstein Telecaster – that for some reason I put mini-humbuckers on – through what looked like a Magnatone, but it’s got a single 12 in it – I don’t know if one of Kevin’s friends made it or what.”

Taking a back seat on the lead guitar side did give Showalter a chance to appreciate the creativity and uniqueness of Broemel’s playing, however…

“He has a Duesenberg that’s like a tour de force of tone,” Tim enthuses. “But his secret is that he would be sitting down in front of this pedalboard, and he had an Echoplex. And as he was soloing on stuff like Weird Ways or Forever Chords, his right hand was constantly working that as he was playing.”

Showalter has developed a reputation as a fan of extended jams, exploratory solos and a general tendency to wig out whenever possible, but by not really playing solos on the album, he began to look at things from a different perspective.

“The thing I love about Eraserland is that there’s very little jamming,” he admits. “It’s extremely structured, and I think that to me always felt unappealing in the past. But when you think about The Dark Side Of The Moon, in your memory, it’s almost as if Gilmour is soloing the whole time. Like an epic jam. But then when you go back and listen to it, it’s actually so composed and orchestrated.

“In my past records, like Hard Love, I was just like, ‘Let’s just jam, fuck it all, start the track!’ And that was fun and all, but for something like Forever Chords, we had it down to a measure. Technically, there are only like three solos on this album.”

One of those three solos was reserved for a very special guest – Jason Isbell. The guitarist is another friend who wanted to help Tim get back in the saddle, and leant his considerable skills to the track Moon Landing.

Jason and I go way back,” Tim explains. “I played shows with him maybe 10 years ago? We’ve remained friends and played off and on together since, and he’s a wonderful person. He has such a beautiful voice and writes award-winning songs, and we sent him the most crazy and dissonant song on the record.

“He really wanted to be on it, but was touring so he couldn’t come to Louisville, so we sent him the track after we were done with it, and we were like, ‘Well, what’s he gonna do with this?’ And then he came back with like a Hendrix-level Machine Gun solo! And I think that I’m most proud of that – because you see it with him live, but I want more people to know that he’s one of the most inventive players around.

“My god, if you listen to the raw track of Moon Landing and his solo, there’s things in there that sound like he’s eating his guitar or something! How is he doing that?! And it was bone dry – no delay or reverb, or anything, just deadly tone. Love that.”

After coming so close to jacking it all in before Eraserland reignited his creativity and love of music, we can’t help but conclude our chat by asking Tim how he’s feeling about the whole thing now…

“I wanna make more records,” he affirms. “But I have to put this album to rest as a piece of art in order to open my brain up to make the new. I always tell friends that the two weeks after I get the master, I have this golden moment where I listen to my own record, and I listen to it, and I like it… and then it’s done forever. I’ve given it to the people.

“It feels good to know that maybe in six months, I’ll be able to maybe start the next one, but I just need to have that moment to let go. It took me a long time to let go of Hard Love, but that enabled me to do this, which was such a positive experience. Hopefully, I won’t have to go through that again this time, though… these dramatic stories, I’m just tired of them!”

Eraserland is out now on Dead Oceans Records.

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Phoebe Bridgers and Matt Berninger (Photo by Chloe Brewer).

The National’s Matt Berninger and singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers have teamed up for a new track featured in Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns: The Movie, which is out today. The song is called “Walking on a String” and the studio recording arrives October 17th via Dead Oceans.

“Walking on a String” was written for Between Two Ferns by Berninger in collaboration with his wife and National collaborator Carin Besser, as well as musician Mike Brewer. It was recorded with Walter Martin and Matt Barrick of the Walkmen and produced by Bridgers, Tony Berg, and Ethan Gruska.

It’s the first joint song from Berninger and Bridgers.

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Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? is what Jennifer Clavin asked herself when she hit a turning point in her life. It’s also the title of the new record from Bleached, Jessie and Jennifer Clavin’s first LP written from a place of sobriety. That newfound perspective serves as the guiding force, yielding a courageous, honest, and sonically ambitious album. It’s a record about fighting both literally and figuratively for your life – and the clarity born from that struggle.

Writing began in early 2018, both in a Los Angeles practice space, and with friends and co-writers in Nashville. Producer Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells) helped open every door to experimentation, wanting to be exploratory while keeping the sound singularly Bleached.

The resulting LP is explosive, grappling with the past; its twelve tracks mark some of the sisters’ most visceral, rawest songwriting to date – and some of their best. The work glimmers with inspiration found in touring with the likes of The Damned and Paramore. That arena-ready pop, incisively catchy, was a palpable influence helping to push Bleached’s sound in a new direction.

Following on from the release of “Kiss You Goodbye” last month, Los Angeles duo Bleached return this July with the romping “Rebound City.” The latest single to be unveiled from Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? is described by Jennifer Clavin as “a brief history of the mistakes that I’ve made,” with the front woman’s post-breakup mea culpa coming supported by a combination of exuberant power chords and thunderous drums.

off ‘Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?’ out July 12 on Dead Oceans Records.


Melbourne-based indie rocker Alex Lahey wasted no time on small-talk pleasantries with the release of her promising 2017 debut, I Love You Like A Brother. The Australian singer-songwriter’s  follow-up, “The Best of Luck Club”, and it’s accompanied music video for lead single “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” to usher in the good news.

The Best of Luck Club, was released May 17th on Dead Oceans Records, picks up where Brother left off, returning all of the sardonic lyricism Lahey charmed listeners with before, but this time, with a more refined finish—think of it like a backhanded compliment with a really good beat. (Okay, maybe not backhanded, but definitely charismatically sarcastic. )

Citing inspirations ranging from Paramore to Bruce Springsteen, Lahey’s sound is something that hinges on the sunshine-y rhythms of surf rock with a ‘90s riot grrrl-inspired edge, producing anthemic pop-punk not meant for sitting still to. Whether she’s singing about self-doubt and breakups, mental health and moving in with a girlfriend, or vibrators and generational ennui, Lahey’s attention to detail zeroes in and locks a moment in place with self-assured precision.

Lahey notes that the dive bar scene in Nashville was her inspiration for the album’s catchy title. “Whether you’ve had the best day of your life or the worst day of your life, you can just sit up at the bar and turn to the person next to you —who has no idea who you are— and have a chat,” she says. “And the response that you generally get at the end of the conversation is ‘best of luck,’ so The Best of Luck Club is that place.”

Lahey released a music video for its peppy and optimistic title track, “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself,” which features a return to her saxophone roots. If album #2 delivers anything like her latest single … consider us already dancing in anticipation.

Alex Lahey – Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself taken from ’The Best Of Luck Club’, the new album ,

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Australian singer/songwriter Alex Lahey is releasing a new album, The Best of Luck Club, on May 17th via Dead Oceans. This week she shared another song from the album, the ballad “Unspoken History,” which is the third  single release from the album.

Lahey had this to say about the song in a press release: “When I was in Nashville, I spent some time in a tiny writing room creating songs for this record. Towards the end of that time, I felt as though I was starting to exhaust my output and was starting to become complacent about what I had left to give. On one of my last days there, I was lent a guitar that was set up in a variation on open D tuning, which is something I never play in. In the process of nutting out chords and voicing in this tuning, the melody to the verses just came out. When I started putting words to it, it started off as being about one thing, but then morphed into something else, creating its own path very organically.”

Previously Lahey shared a video for The Best of Luck Club’s first single, “Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself” which features a prominent saxophone solo from Lahey Then she shared another song from the album, “Am I Doing It Right,” The album is the follow-up to her 2017-released debut album, I Love You Like a Brother , Lahey began writing The Best of Luck Clubin Nashville, sometimes locking herself in a room for 12-hour days. Then the album was recorded over the course of a month in her hometown of Melbourne at Sing Sing South. Lahey co-produced the album alongside Grammy-winning producer Catherine Marks (Local Natives, St. Vincent, Manchester Orchestra). Lahey plays nearly every instrument on the album, with the appearance of the saxophone a reference to her past studying jazz saxophone at university.

Lahey had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “In Nashville I was really inspired by the dive bar scene there and the idea that at these dive bars there’s no pretentious energy. Whether you’ve had the best day of your life or the worst day of your life, you can just sit up at the bar and turn to the person next to you – who has no idea who you are – and have a chat. And the response that you generally get at the end of the conversation is, ‘Best of luck,’ so The Best of Luck Club is that place.”

’The Best Of Luck Club’, the new album from Alex Lahey, out May 17th on Dead Oceans


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This week sister duo Bleached (Jessie and Jennifer Clavin) announced a new album, “Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?”, and shared a video for a catchy new song from it, “Hard to Kill.” Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?is due out July 12th via Dead Oceans.

The songs were written in Los Angeles and Nashville. Jessie did most of the instrumentation and Jennifer mainly did the lyrics and melodies. Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells) produced the album. The album is the follow-up to 2016’s Welcome the Worms and 2017’s Can You Deal? EP. A press release says Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?is the band’s “first LP written from a place of sobriety.”

Jennifer had this to say about the album in a press release: “Writing these songs while sober became somewhat of a spiritual experience. I had to let go, trust the process, and allow an energy beyond my control to be present.”

“Hard To Kill” by Bleached off ‘Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?’ out July 12 on Dead Oceans Records

Oh My God

Kevin Morby has been thinking about God. If you’re a fan of the Kansas City-raised songwriter, you’re probably already aware of this. On his first four solo LPs, Morby has riddled his lyrics with allusions and questions, never quite discovering what sort of universal presence he’s engaging with. On his latest album, “Oh My God”, Morby presents the logical conclusion of this investigation. Not only it is his deepest dive into a metaphysical pulse, but it’s also his most stunning and brilliant record. With Oh My God , Morby swings for the fences with abandon and excitement.

The album begins with the title track, and after a brief word of encouragement from co-producer Sam Cohen, Morby begins. We get ragtime piano, heavy chords, and church choir backing vocals. Immediately, this is something new. Morby’s always been a fantastic songwriter, but this is something big, something different. When we ask the guitarist about these heightened goals, his answer is simple: “We wanted this one to feature music that could fit inside of a cathedral.”Even though Morby isn’t religious, he’s fascinated by the way it shapes our lives.

As a young Midwesterner, he witnessed it all around him. Whether he’s a believer or not is far from the point. This is the world he’s grown up with and it constantly invades his vernacular. Whether intentionally or not, Morby conflates politics with religion and, as such, this record is interested in the world we live in. But, Oh My God is more ambitious than its era.

It’s an album for all-time, not just 2019. When Morby turns this world inward, Oh My God is at its best. Kevin Morby is a growing spirit, a disciple for the Godless. And yet, there’s something here for everyone. Morby is confident without becoming preachy, questioning without being faithless. It’s a tightrope and Morby’s learned how to cross it blindfolded. I wonder what his next trick will be.

This is Kevin Morby’s defining album to date, that sounds as celestially enlightened as the themes it tackles, balancing sonic depth with a masterful lightness of touch and a painterly vision of the complete picture. “this one feels full circle, my most realised record yet,” he says. “it’s a cohesive piece; all the songs fit under the umbrella of this weird religious theme.” this is Kevin’s opus – a double concept album on spirituality and religion, for fans of Steve Gunn, Conor Oberst, Waxahatchee, Woods, and Kurt Vile .

Kevin Morby “Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild” from “Oh My God” out April 26th on Dead Oceans Records.

Los-Angeles based rockers Bleached are back with their stripped-down new single “Shitty Ballet.” This is the duo’s first new music since their rough-edged and rollicking 2017 EP Can You Deal?, which inspired a feminist zine of the same name featuring artists like Kate Nash, Julien Baker, Lizzo and numerous others.

“Shitty Ballet” represents a definite change in sound for sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin, as the track is mostly filled with acoustic guitar until their backing band joins in for a heavy ending. The song was written in mere hours “in a deluge of heartbreak,” according to a press release, which partially accounts for their more pared-back instrumentation.

Jennifer said of “Shitty Ballet” in a statement:

Bleached has always been a pretty loud rock band so we felt it was time to explore a more stripped-down style of playing. With the vulnerability of the lyrics we decided to carry that into the instruments as well for the first time recording with just an acoustic guitar and vocals. Sonic change is important to us right now. More of that coming soon.

The track is accompanied by a one-shot video of the sisters singing alongside ballerinas, The video’s soft, rosy lighting reflects the single’s gentler sound.

Bleached – “Shitty Ballet” single out now on Dead Oceans Records

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Mitski has shared a new live video shot during her run of four sold-out shows at Brooklyn Steel in New York City last year. The video shows her passionate, emotive performance of the fan favorite “Drunk Walk Home” from her 2014 album Bury Me At Makeout Creek. The Brooklyn Steel shows were part of an ongoing series of tours behind her hit record Be the Cowboy, which was widely considered to be among the best albums of 2018.

“I asked filmmaker Derrick Belcham to film some of the four Brooklyn Steel dates we did at the end of last year’s U.S. tour, mostly to commemorate the first big Be The Cowboy tour, especially since I knew we wouldn’t repeat the same set again after that round of tours,” Mitski said in a statement. “Now that we’ve started to tour a new set this year, I wanted to put this video out as a goodbye to this old set, and a thank you to everyone who came to the shows last year.”

Belcham is a Canadian filmmaker based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who, prior to directing “Drunk Walk Home” for Mitski, has worked with artists like Philip Glass, Paul Simon, Laurie Anderson and Steve Reich.

“Drunk Walk Home” recorded live at Brooklyn Steel on December 1st, 2018. ‘Be The Cowboy’ Out Now on Dead Oceans.

Mitski is currently on tour in the American South with Bay Area songwriter Jay Som.

“Eraserland” is Strand of Oaks’ most lasting, accessible album yet, one that’s not as concerned with its own internal drama and more interested in communicating the power in dreaming up a better life.

Tim Showalter returns with Eraserland, his sixth album as Strand Of Oaks. It almost didn’t happen. As the touring behind 2017’s Hard Love was coming to a close, Showalter found himself defeated. After the wild journey from his 2014 breakthrough Heal to its follow-up, something didn’t click. Unsatisfied with his band, with the project overall, with himself, he entered into in a bout of deep depression.

Then he got a call from an old friend and a musician he’d looked up to: My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel. The other members of the group besides singer Jim James — keyboardist Bo Koster, bassist Tom Blankenship, and drummer Patrick Hallahan — wanted to offer their services as backing band for a new Oaks album. The only problem was Showalter didn’t have any songs.

He embarked on a writing retreat, secluding himself on the beaches of Wildwood, New Jersey in the dead of winter. In a few weeks, he emerged with the songs that would become Eraserland. He met the band in Louisville and they recorded the material in a matter of weeks as well.

Tim comments,

I know a lot has already been said about this record.  So I guess I will just dig right to the core.  Eraserland will forever hold such a special place in my heart, I’ve never been more proud of a group of songs, and in many ways I feel like this is my first record.  But more importantly when I listen to or think about Eraserland, I’m filled with the love of all those around me and the special people that guided me back from being so lost, to make this record a reality.  Whereas most Strand of Oaks records were made in such a solitary creative space, Eraserland was created by a community of friends and people I love so dearly.  This community also includes all of you, who are a part of this family.  I would like to thank (we can tag them here))) Carl, Bo, Tom, Patrick, Kevin, Ryan M., Jason Isbell, Emma, Lacey Guthrie, Anne (insta annegthr), Alysee, Dead Oceans, and most importantly my wife and partner Sue.  When you listen to Eraserland and if you find some connection, please know that this would not have been possible without these wonderful people in my life.  Eraserland means whatever you want it to, but for me its a place where you can be anyone you want to be, and hopefully find some peace.  I love you all very much and now we get to share these songs together.  The last line on the album is my hope for all of us, “If you believe you can be loved, you’ll outlive you’re past”.

Thank you- Tim

several of its songs are more rewarding and evocative each time you listen. And below, Showalter’s stories may provide a sort of first listen companion.

1. “Weird Ways”

As a mission statement and lead single, “Weird Ways” feels like such a perfect re-entry point. Like opening up the album with sort of a rebirth moment. Tim: In my time at the beach, which was basically a writing retreat, that was the last song I wrote. It was towards the end of my time there, before my wife and her family came, and I was breaking down my gear , then I just wrote one more song. I felt like I was in this rush to write it because I needed to get the apartment clean before her parents came. But I had one thing left I needed to say, after three weeks and many more songs than are on the record.

I wrote it so fast. It was just another song, I had no idea about its impact on my catalouge. We got to the studio, and it was kinda far down on the list. I always have my marquee songs I really like, hence my past mistakes like “Passing Out” not being on Hard Love. But then “Weird Ways” was the first song we tracked. It had this weird life, it was the underdog. The original, it was like two minutes and the refrain at the end was a four-bar “There are colors.” Since it was the last song I wrote, I think it actually encapsulated the entire experience of the album. I think I was summarizing the record, and then it’s the first song on the album. It’s like I’m calling my shot before the album happens.

“Weird Ways,” from the demo, is the least familiar on the album. Kevin Ratterman, my producer, he and I didn’t talk about it, but how we developed the arrangement on the album was like the curtain coming up. And the curtain comes up for everybody pretty much individually. You initially hear Carl’s ethereal little slide, then Bo comes in with the keyboards, Patrick comes in with the snare, and finally Tommy comes in when everyone kicks in.

It’s beautiful in a way, because yes it’s introducing their instruments, but it’s also introducing how each member individually — and this is the theme of the whole recording process — was there for me and embracing me. It starts out extremely alone, it’s just me with an acoustic sounding extremely lonely. With them and Lacey Guthrie from Twin Limb, by the end it feels like there’s 500 people in the room around me.

This was the first time [My Morning Jacket] members and I recorded together. In the midst of the tracking, I really messed up a take. And I was the worst one to mess up a take because I had very little responsibility — I was just tracking ghost vocals and rhythm guitar. So whenever I messed up when we’re tracking a six and a half minute song live, I felt really bad. Just like, “Who is the amateur in this room!? It’s your song!” But I did, I messed up.

It was my first and only deep crisis of conscience, where I had the inevitable, “What am I doing here? This is where Jim should be and … I cannot sing like Jim …” I didn’t express it to anyone else as it was happening but luckily I got over it fast. I saw things within the studio. I was communicating with one of my favorite bands in that way.

A key moment arrangement-wise in that song was the “There are colors” refrain. Originally it was a falsetto and a low part. On demo, it just wasn’t there. The song really didn’t take off until I was doing the vocals and I told Kevin “I wanna do a Liam Gallagher part.” He was like, “What does that mean!?” There was this high part and low part and then I did this middle part like “That’s what Liam Gallagher would’ve done there!” It added a heft that wasn’t there. The story that came with Eraserland’s initial announcement was that you were feeling pretty defeated, then got a call from Carl.

SHOWALTER: The worst I felt is when Carl originally contacted me. That was at the end of the Hard Love tour. I was done. I was very depressed. Unbeknownst to me, I was equating it to my music because I’d become so tied to that identity as that’s who I was. I was thinking, “It’s the band, I don’t want the band to go on anymore.” But I think I didn’t want to go on anymore. I think I was done, in a lot of ways.

So the beach happened because they all booked studio time and Bo had two weeks off from the Roger Waters tour to be with us. All of that happened, and I legitimately didn’t have songs. I love Wildwood, New Jersey, and I love it in the winter.

2. “Hyperspace Blues”

Eraserland has these towering, emotional tracks that kind of trace this journey. But, on our way, right from “Weird Ways,” we go to “Hyperspace Blues.” this song definitely seems like it’s about drugs.  I love “Hyperspace Blues” because it served such a functional purpose in my daily process at the beach. My favorite thing to do on the beach,  I would take my bike, and the beach is frozen in the winter, and I’d just ride my bike forever at night.

It’s the most freeing experience, because the Jersey Shore is so wide, and you can just ride your bike forever and I felt like a kid. I felt like I was absolutely alone in the universe. I had music on, it was pitch black, and I had no consequences — if I fell off my bike it was sand, I wasn’t going to get hit by a car. It was like hyperspace. I think that played into it a lot. That’s the song I’m most excited to play live.

How do I say it … there’s a bit of trolling on Eraserland. I’m trolling Hard Love a little bit on Eraserland. It’s deeply referential but the idea of like, “Somebody put me back together!” It’s kind of like me responding to that whole situation.

3. “Keys”

The way I hear albums is often informed by the artwork. So I hear Eraserland as taking place in this glossier place than the other albums, but also blue and nocturnal, a little bit surrealist. So it took me a bit to hear “Keys” this way, But there’s also something so poignant and universal about this sentiment, just being with your partner and saying “We’re done, let’s just get out of here together.” I think “Keys” might be the best love song I ever wrote for Sue. I’ve written a lot of love songs for her but this truly sums it up.

I really like that song because it’s chords I’ve used before, and I really didn’t want to write that song when I was playing the chords. I had a melody that was a really atypical Strand Of Oaks melody. Then I put it away and I was actually trying to hum an organ part I was going to put on, but that became that wandering melody in the verse.

We tracked vocals after the band left, in another session. It was just Kevin and I in the studio. You can hear it on the last chorus, where I say “I’ll buy us a trailer down in the Keys,” which to me is so bittersweet. I was just zooming through the vocal takes and I got to that part and I started crying. It got me, completely.

When I got to that second verse, and I choked up, and I go “Ah, sorry Kevin.” And I couldn’t see him so I go “Kevin, are you there?” I said it three times, and it turns out he was crying, too. We weren’t in the same room, couldn’t see each other, but it hit us equally as hard. Then we went to the second take, and I do break up a little bit again, and we kept it. I was happy that Kevin didn’t push me to do a more refined take in that moment.

4. “Visions”

“Visions” is one of the heavier, more harrowing songs on the album. “Visions” is a crazy song because I wrote that chorus melody before Heal. That melody has existed for like six years, and I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to find that chorus a home. It wasn’t until I did the verse, and a two-chord for the pre-chorus … I think the song feels heroic in a way, simply because I felt so happy I finally found a place for this chorus to live.

It’s one of the few songs on the record that touches on the depression I was in. It’s interesting. I think back to a lot of the songs I wrote and “Visions” introduces something I never had before, and that’s hopelessness. For me, there’s a few lines that nail it home, to the truth. “2017 tried its best to take the magic from me.” “Magic,” that’s self-referential that’s what I say in “Goshen ’97,” “The magic began.” That’s a code word for music, and how music has saved me. I felt like the year, and all that was wrapped up in 2017 — my career, my band, the world — it was gone. The whole song is hopeless at that moment but what’s cool is the music is heroic, and I think the music saves the lyrics. The arrangement is trying to save the person who’s singing.

I was so into that arrangement. If this would’ve been Hard Love me or Heal me I would’ve added a thousand more things to that fucking song. Harmonies on the chorus. That song is begging for a guitar solo! It’s begging for a Slash to show up and step off the train tracks! .

5. “Final Fires”

Track order is so essential on Eraserland, more so than on any other record I’ve done. “Visions” … it’s a commitment to get to track 4 and end “Visions.” Then moving to “Final Fires,”. What’s cool about this song is it captures the aesthetic of the album pretty well. You think it’s going to be kinda new wave-y in the beginning with that intro, then it’s like this rollicking, breezy rock song. I’m excited for people to hear the whole record, because there are moments that are fun. This feels fun in a way that not even “Goshen ’97” did. More awareness I may have earned in my life, and understanding that every year you live you realize everyone’s as completely as fucking lost as you are and everyone has problems and there’s an enormous amount of confusion in everyone’s life. In the past, I would’ve written a whole record like, “I think I’m crazy!” And now I can sum it up in one kinda funny line in the beginning of “Final Fires,”.

6. “Moon Landing”

“Moon Landing” feels like it would’ve sat here on the album regardless, a kind of mid-album funk freakout. And you have Jason Isbell playing on it.  Jason and I go way, way back. He’s a wonderful person. I think Jason knew I was having a tough time. He reached out and was like, “If you need anything on this record let me know. I’d love to be a part of it.”

We always had that in the back of our mind, like I have Carl Broemel and then I also have the opportunity to have Jason Isbell. We were thinking of where to put him. My God, Jason plays slide guitar amazing, he could’ve done something amazing on “Keys.” We had this absolute groove song so we sent it to Jason. I kept telling Kevin, “You have no idea what he can do on a guitar.  It’s more indebted to Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” than an Allman Brothers song. It’s fucking crazy. I felt so pleased in such a tiny, tiny way, that if anyone didn’t know the depth of Jason’s playing,

Since Heal, I’ve had songs that are sort of the gravitational center of the record. “JM” was that, and “On The Hill” was that for Hard Love … and “Moon Landing,” in a different way, feels like it’s gluing things together. Especially lyrically. There’s a lot of lyrics to unravel.

I started the song with Malcolm Young, as a fan … in life, there are certain moments that are perfect. I think Malcolm Young was perfect in what he did. It’s something that cannot be emulated, it’s something about the way he played, and that’s the impact of him being gone now. No one will ever play rock ‘n’ roll rhythm guitar as flawlessly as Malcolm Young did. It’s book-ended with the last verse, with Chris Cornell. I always took a lot of pride in [having the same birthday] as him. Another monumental perfect thing, Chris Cornell’s voice.

Another Rosetta Stone moment is when I say “Bobby’s singing ‘Prophet’ with the futuristic eyes,” it’s Bob Weir singing “Estimated Prophet.” The lyrics in “Estimated Prophet” had a huge impact on the lyrics for “Moon Landing.” Chris Swanson, who started Secretly Canadian, told me the best thing ever: “Some songs are for the people, some songs are for the heads.” This is one of those for the heads, I think.

7. “Ruby”

I don’t think you’ve ever written something as effortlessly catchy and warm as “Ruby.” I loved what you said when this came out as a single. There has been nostalgia, especially on the last couple Oaks albums, but there was a pang with it. And “Ruby” is this more contented remembrance. And then there’s that refrain at the end where, like “Weird Ways,” it really strikes me as the exact sound of Strand Of Oaks playing with My Morning Jacket.

Musically, “Ruby” is probably my proudest moment, because there’s a lot of strange key-shifting. The chorus is in a different key than the verse, the refrain is in a completely different key, and it all fits together.

What really nailed it is it for a long time existed as just the chorus and verse and it was last minute when I shifted into that “Ruby, won’t you slow it down.” That, to me, along with “Keys,” is one of the prettiest moments in my career. Then the waltzy piano outro was just another idea that was on the demo, that had no connection. That was Bo — I don’t think he knew, I didn’t intend for that outro to be on the song. So we finished and he just went into it and I was like, “Whoa, whoa the song’s over!” And Bo was like, “Oh, I thought this was part of it,” so I said, “Well, now it is!” So it ends in this 6/8 time signature. Man, it was fun to put together. In four minutes there’s like five different themes put together.

8. “Wild And Willing”

After “Ruby” the album definitely goes into a sad and ruminative place for the final stretch. It begins with “Wild And Willing.” Now, you write self-referentially a lot, you write autobiographically a lot. On this particular album, I feel like there are more lyrical references to being in a band and being on tour. Is that something — compared to say, “Keys” — that you worry people aren’t going to connect with as much.

With Eraserland, there are references to band and musician and it does seem like a closed society in some ways. I kind of feel the opposite. In “Wild And Willing,” I think it does feel a lot more inviting and welcoming because, yeah, I’m referencing being in a band but the way I’m presenting the lyrics is, hopefully, a lot more universal. “Wild And Willing,” that is the one song that should not be on this record. We had this other great song we made in the studio, that’ll probably come out at some point. But I got to this point where we had recorded that song and I was doing vocals and I asked Kevin, “Can I do something just for posterity?” We had the vocal mic set up, I grabbed what turned out to be Jim’s guitar — which is beautiful, because it’s like he’s on the record in a way, this was his main acoustic at the beginning of Jacket. “Wild And Willing” is the first and only take.

9. “Eraserland”

This final one-two is the most powerful way you’ve ever ended an album, in my opinion. And this title track is a weird song. It has this synth-gospel thing going on almost, and these big breaks and this dramatic outro. It’s one of the most interesting Oaks songs, I think. “Eraserland” the song is, for anyone that knows — that’s Pope Killdragon, who’s come back after 10 years. He’s speaking to the Virgin Mary, who was the heroine of Pope Killdragon. In my head, on the beach, I thought about the world and myself and what happened in the 10 years since I wrote Pope Killdragon and I brought him back. I never thought I would. If “Visions” was hopeless, this is… It’s a dark song.

I think the song itself is like four vignettes. Some are global, some are extremely personal. It was the self-assessment moment: What would I say if this angel or patron saint came back and talked to me? And she was like, “The last time I hung out with you, you were trying to write Pope Killdragon, and then you made an anthem record, As opposed to something like “Wild And Willing,” where I just forgot about it, I was pretty adamant about not putting “Eraserland” on the record. It wasn’t called “Eraserland,” it was just this song. That should be the end of the record. “Eraserland” should be the last song, and in a way it is. The one thing that was beautiful about the song “Eraserland” is I didn’t have the name of the album until one time Sue visited us in Louisville and I told her, “I think I’m going to call it Land Of The Dead.” And she was like “…You can’t do that.” .

I do strangely say “erase” like five times on the record. We came up with “Eraserland,” and this song didn’t have a name, so I made it the title track. And with that we had that outro without any vocals. Kevin said, “You need to say one more thing in this song.” That’s when that refrain [happened], and we were very specific about how to put those words together, because it’s “I am the Eraserland,” not “I’m in the Eraserland.” It feels more powerful, it’s a declaration. I think that’s an extremely different statement.

It’s also a reference to “Goshen ’97,” “I don’t want to start all over again.” This is me saying to that, “I can start again.” I can do whatever I want. the song is strikingly beautiful and has this effect coming after all these other tracks. Then you have Emma Ruth Rundle come in, and her voice is just totally otherworldly.

When I was doing the vocals, Kevin was like, “I wanna have Emma sing on this song.” We called it the Eraserland Vibe. Emma’s around my age, and I realized maybe she was having a lot of the same feelings. I saw so much of myself in her. Those that know Emma know she can sing huge. And I love that both of us were singing in our lower register.

10. “Forever Chords”

“Forever Chords” is this gigantic epilogue. Sonically speaking, it brings in the MMJ element one more time because it reminds me of “Dondante” a bit, this spectral and sprawling thing, big but not loose, with like an orchestrated build. It’s just two chords, C to E minor. Those are forever chords. Music is my language. Forever chords, that means more than C to E minor. I say it in the song. “Major to minor in a slow beating pulse.” That should be on my gravestone, that’s my mission statement in life. There’s so much to unravel with that song. I think the song explains it. I don’t want it to end. I think I’ve felt that way my whole life,

I think another gravestone lyric is “If you believe you can be loved/ You’ll outlive your past.” If I never write a lyric again… There is a lot of finality to “Forever Chords,” which is scary as a songwriter. Did I just do it at 36? Is that it for me? Because I just summed up what I thought for 36 years.

Eraserland is out now on Dead Oceans Records.