AMERIGLOW’S JACOB DARDEN FINDS ABSOLUTION IN THE RESTRAINT OF HIS NEW RECORD
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Turbulence “” spiritual, somatic or otherwise “” fueled Jacob Darden’s songwriting for much of his early twenties and resulted in at least one outstanding record, Israel Darling’s Dinosaur Bones and Mechanical Hands (there could be more, but a cache of songs remain unreleased). On the forthcoming second album by his latest project, Ameriglow, acceptance and release are the catalysts for his darkest, but most centered record to date.
A Heavy Heaven for Robby is dedicated to a man that Darden calls “a true punk”, a friend who lived his life according to no one else, and whose passing several years ago left Darden searching for catharsis until recently. Its foggy textures and cold cynicism may be familiar to fans of his previous work, but flaying most of the alt-country sonics of Israel Darling and the first Ameriglow album.
Y!W: There’s a lyric that immediately jumped out at me where you sing, “Describe your pain from 1 to 10.” Is this supposed to suggest a psychosomatic ailment rather than a physical one?
Jacob Darden: Or lot of times when they’re dwelling on how much morphine to give you. It’s more of a psychological thing. The lyric says “”¦1–10, I hope they’re prescribing Western medicine. You reply 11. Mine’s the same, make a wish.” It goes back to being a kid and you say that to someone at 11:11. It’s something Robby and I used to say to each other all the time. It goes into the next song, which says “wishes don’t come true” and “Maybe I just miss my best friend.”
Y!W: Meaning, when you play these live, they will have to be done in a certain order”¦
JD: Yeah, we’re going to run it down from top to bottom when we release it. I set it up on purpose that way, but that’s the thing about the lyrics on here, the meaning of the songs shift a lot depending upon the perspective. It’s supposed to be very depressive, but there’s almost an expectant feeling to it when you hear it another way.
Y!W: This record is easily your noisiest and your slowest. What are you sensing to be the expectations leading up to it?
JD: In both ways, there’s some anticipation for the change, but also there are some who have been confused by it because it doesn’t sound like an Israel Darling record or an alt-country record. I think major overhauls from record to record are an okay thing. We recorded this album so late at night, like most of the songs we recorded from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., 9 a.m. Besides about three or four songs, most were recorded on the spot, lyrics and everything. It’s definitely grittier because it was more passion driven. We weren’t trying to be technical or lay out a certain sound, there was just a feeling in the air and we went with it.
Y!W: Was this in a way pushing back at the alt-country label that you had before you took time off from music, and then came back to?
JD: That’s the difference, for so long we were identified as alt-country. I don’t like the idea of genres, but I just wanted something that was dark and haunting. We decided to drop the folk instruments altogether, and even the songs on here that might sound country or folk really aren’t because they’re all done with layers. I would play a six-string guitar, and I do inverted chords, I don’t do full chords, so everything is raised up. Then I would layer a 12-string guitar and pull it like an octave up and play the exact same riff. Then I would take a bass and play power chords, and then another bass and play it the normal way, so it’s layered in steps, but playing the exact same thing together. I guess we were really looking for a complex tone but a simple sound.
Y!W: You can hear a lot of that on the instrumental “While Licking Broken Pavement”.
JD: I played drums on that. I layered two drum sets, maybe three. When were done, we had no lyrics on there so I wasn’t even planning on using it. We listened back and I heard my favorite bands in there, so we named it that after Broken Social Scene and Pavement.
I played it for a friend not long ago who let me in of the fact that Broken Social Scene has a song that’s dedicated to Pavement, so we stumbled upon a weird symmetry.
The next one will move completely away from folk instruments and have a more rhythm. I want to do a big sound with a lot of movement. Everything’s going lower, and I guess that has a lot to do with age, or the wear and tear I’ve put on my voice, but I can’t sing like I used to. I can’t scream, I can’t get high pitches, so I’m actually having to learn how to write songs based on a talking voice. The guitars are now all D-tuned a whole step because I realized that standard tuning wasn’t achievable for my anymore.
Y!W: How much did performing songs from Dinosaur Bones and Mechanical Hands have to do with that? Did it push you too far?
JD: It had to because I would blow my voice out ever night. There was the recorded version and live there was this punk ethos to it that demanded that I just blow it out. And between that and all the cigarettes I’ve smoked, it was inevitable I guess. I can’t even scream anymore no matter how much I want to. !
Ameriglow will play the record release show for A Heavy Heaven for Robby Friday at the Blind Tiger.