My new EP, “Duels”, is now out in its entirety and available everywhere. It’s loud; it’s quiet; it’s stylistically all over the place, from rock n’ roll to alternative to indie rock to acoustic, and – without any intentions to highlight them – the EP encompasses a good deal of my early influences. After many hours tinkering in my studio, this beast is finally done and out. I hope you’ll give it a listen. You’ll find the lyrics below.
Releasing anything in the creative sphere comes with some trepidation. Art is, of course, an extension of self, and putting yourself out there can be uncomfortable. It can also be invigorating, a release, followed by a brief sense of accomplishment that is then quickly smothered by the weight of all the administrative tasks necessary to get one’s art out there. There are records to press, social media accounts to drown in hype. People to contact. So many people to contact. And inevitably the gentle ruminations of the next project. All the while, I’m left pondering if any of this means a damn thing to anyone but me. So I keep going.
I feel this way with every release, whether one song or ten, and I feel a little bit more reservation with “Duels” simply because it’s so sonically different from what I do in a live setting. I have no band, after all. It’s just me with an acoustic guitar, trying to offer listeners something more than Another Dude With an Acoustic, strumming chords, singing tired songs about tired themes. Imagine the utter confusion, then, of a listener who catches me at some bar, running alternate finger-picking tunes like “Too Many Fires”, and then throws on “Duels” and hears “Guaranteed Bones,” which sounds like what would happen if Neil Young, Carrie Underwood and Every Time I Die went out for a dirt-bike ride.
It would sound, to the casual listener, like two very different artists.
“Maybe I have the wrong Louiston?” [wings CD into nearby lake]
So. Yea. I have reservations.
Pushing them aside for a moment, “Duels” presented a fun opportunity to move temporarily away from my acoustic and modest instrument arsenal in favor of more sonic variety, more dynamics and rhythm. The catalyst here was Mike Murray, a willing drummer eager to collaborate. Up until this point, my recording process has been largely singular. Now, with an actual drummer in the mix, I wasn’t just going to hand him some mild acoustic tunes, I thought. Let’s wade out a little. Let’s make a fucking rock n’ roll record.
“Duels” also offered the chance to expand on production skills, mainly in working with full-band dynamics. I’ve never mixed a drum kit with 8 tracks, nor stacked up layers of distorted guitars, mic’ed in front of a Fender Deluxe amp. This was unfamiliar terrain. Over the past 15 years, I’ve recorded minimally, with whatever whack equipment I could find, in whatever place I called home. Many bathrooms, attics and empty bedrooms operated in dual roles, with XRL cables strung up and mic stands shoved into corners, to be set back into place when life permitted a few spare hours to record. Limitations by way of space constraints and recording knowledge became every part of a Louiston record as the guitars I played and the pots and pans I banged on. It’s encouraging, and funny, to hear some glint of progression in sound quality from one record to the next. My first project back in 2005 was recorded with a cheap mic and a Dell laptop, and it sounds like it. “Duels” was tracked all in Pro Tools, across two different studios, with a whole lot of learned mistakes under my belt. It sounds pretty good. You really do learn by simply doing something. Crazy shit, right?
My father builds automobiles in his spare time. He’ll salvage an old car frame, sand off the rust, and then go about collecting various parts online and at flea markets – engine, carburetor, seats, bumpers, tires, all of it. Little by little, in one- or two-hour increments over the course of months (and years), he’ll escape to his garage to build the thing, piece by piece. He calls it “puttering” or “tinkering.” Inevitably, something gets installed incorrectly or burns up or goes wrong, and dad consults whomever, sees his error, corrects it and moves on to the next task. Piece by piece. Eventually, there are no more parts to install or paint to apply (but always adjustments to make). The countless individual pieces are made into a whole, and dad fires up his custom-made Jeep and takes it out around the block, ponders aloud why the so-and-so part isn’t quite right or this part here isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. But the thing runs. It’s amazing – a glittering-blue CJ7. Then, he parks the Jeep back in the garage and just starts on his next car – a hot-rod of some kind.
Making records feels like that for me, this one especially – a tedious tinkering. Slow. Piece by piece, because if at any point you dare look up and consider how far you have left to go, you’d be looking dread directly in the face. Finally, the tinkering is exhausted. “Duels” is done, and here you go. Have a listen.
Time to start on the next one.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening.
Duels – bound for home / it’s never how you think / the road in gets slowly erased / for the kind of place / that starts off its day / with tv rage and the obit page / west of oz / east of eden / feeling though you lost / you hold tight to what you got / bottle the rain and bless the rust / the unwinding thread / .410 ‘neath the bed / the coming sound of turning to dust / west of oz / east of eden / note my smile of the rank and file / fool, if all else fails I’m overwhelmed by the vengeance of my god / and if the ground should tremble, I’ll be warmed by the force / of you versus me / us versus them / or only rage and I / steady on your duels
Guaranteed Bones – torn by the wide and the narrow road / led by the hand, now the next step’s your own / you ain’t owed a key / there is but one guarantee / guaranteed bones / friend, how hard the hands of time land / the proudest man soon but a grain of sand / each spoken word is a song / each breath an atom bomb, and yet / I’m a John Doe in the promised land / between machines and the middle man / a short break to witness the day / spiral down the hole / guaranteed bones
The Up – here comes that siren sound / on the inbound / The Up is calling, calling out for us / shit gig but we made it work / sweat stains on all my shirts / I’ve been beaten down, but I’m getting, getting back up / cause I ain’t sure how and I ain’t sure when / I ain’t asking any questions like who, what, why, where, when and the how / don’t make no difference now / our ticket’s punch on The Up / made it out before we sank / destination middle ranks / spent the longest time just getting, getting stuck / cause I ain’t sure how and I ain’t sure when / I ain’t asking any questions like who, what, why, where, when and the how / don’t make no difference now / our ticket’s punch on The Up / double-time move them feet / we’ve got places to be / picking up the tab on everything that once was free / doesn’t make any difference to me / our ticket’s punched on The Up
Win Win – north or southbound / getting up from falling down / either way you’re still gaining ground / it’s a win win / tramping into hurricanes / leaving from where I came / in a box or ticker-tape parade / hell it’s a win win / went rogue in Charlotte / ended with a busted lip / I got mine but he got his / it’s a win win / hey, you gotta hedge your bets these days / you’re riding high in April, and you’re fucked in May / old man and his old cane / parked it in the farthest lane / fighting to keep a few things / win win / if law’s got a line on medicine / and if Amy’s hungry or hearing voices again / she’s weighing arrest or sustenance / peace or a loaf of bread / it’s a win win / hey, you gotta hedge your bets these days / straddle that line between give and take / hey, I’d say it’s a hustler’s game / but I’m coming up roses any way I play
Sentimental Things – a nothing place / with easy saints / and easy histories / sentimental things / on the edge of Dresser / with beers to drink / a lone light in the train yard / sentimental things / a girl you loved / when you were young / read in the paper / got a newborn son / what it was / ain’t like it is / got a good, hard grip but threads are stripped / that far off land / when we were kings / we settle for laymen / sentimental things / a dead man’s trophies / in a vacant den / from shelves to boxes / two for 10 cents / and his house, they combed it flat / razed and seeded / and that was that / a tender pity / recurrent rage / they never leave / they get stored away / every step I took from youth / stems from more or less from these two / and here I am / on radiant streets / walking after midnight / sentimental things / a nothing place / with easy saints / and easy histories / sentimental things
Someday We’ll Laugh About This – you can call it in / they can drag me out / a couple of trades I know about / I wouldn’t mind the peace and quiet / someday we’ll laugh about this / how many lunches can you serve / to go it all on your own? / you’d be wise to think of how the boys would fare / in whatever hole you call a home / now take a seat before I get pissed / someday we’ll laugh about this / ain’t I a problem you could fix? / someday we’ll laugh about this / come in, come close / if you’re the same girl I used to know / you will rage, and you’ll grow old / in this wolvestown, this shitshow / oh my god you’ve come alive, Colleen / it’s unbecoming of a kept lady / someday we’ll laugh about this / sun busting in, brandishing knives / and a fleeting notion I’ll be better next time / I beat it down as I know how / with whatever I’ve got laying around / there ain’t a problem I can’t fix / someday we’ll laugh about this / ain’t I a problem you could fix? / someday we’ll laugh about this