Oct 8, 2007
- 1 Welcome to Daytrotter
- 2 Guns of Navarone
- 3 With Holes for Thumb-Sized Birds
- 4 For Science Fiction
- 5 Pearl
The Bigger Question Is...
Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Adult thoughts come in time. They come in large, lumbering herds, beaning us in the eyes and forehead and shoulders and neck like pellets of hail or sand particles on a windy afternoon. They find us when we're trying to minimize our stress, trying to curl out our furrowed brows and defuse our hardwired pessimism. The biggest questions that need to be answered stop being, "Can I make it there and back on a quarter of a tank?" or "I have 18 hours until my 10-page essay is due. Should I go out to the pub for an hour for drinks?" to "Wait, who took a pregnancy test?" and "What's getting older have to do with getting wiser and being more put together?" Maybe it's when that latter question is asked that it lets all of the various cats out of the bag, set to fend for themselves and riddle us with the incessant needling of ongoing open-endedness.
I fear that there are more questions and worries than we'll ever have answers for and it's doing our best just to ask the questions and see where that leaves us. It's best to resign ourselves to recognizing that our mental voice - the one that blasts inside our craniums, the one that finds ways every other week or so to keep you from sleeping a stitch for all of the weight that happens to be on it - carries about as far as an anvil. The precision that these meddlesome inquiries take, their urgency and their brashness is kind of intoxicating. During the good times, they're asked less and all it does is leave us with a sinking suspicion that the other shoe will fucking drop. It must fall and then things will be good no longer.
Milwaukee foursome Maritime doesn't really ask questions in their songs, but Davey von Bohlen uses his fascinatingly observant and impressionistic lyrics to represent the efforts that he makes and the efforts that his three other bandmates make in their daily, ritualistic conversations to strive for more enlightenment than they had the day before, whether that's a good thing or something otherwise. They all think these important thoughts on (or prior to the making of) Heresy and the Hotel Choir, the band's third full-length album, leaving a residue that mirrors the impossibly confounded settings and circumstances that begat all of the effort to start with.
Von Bohlen's words are of a different species, sung in his uniquely raspy lisp and exuding a sort of wordless wisdom, though it's all done through those words, as crazy as that seems. He makes interesting non-statements about general religion on "For Science Fiction" singing, "I want to thank God for science fiction/For the benediction and the contradiction that all our souls are saved" and reminding everyone that that all fear a different devil - again, something that's as crazy as it seems. His superior way with language in getting at the root source of what's been drumming at him is as impressive as it ever is on Heresy and the way to tell that is by listening intently to everything he's singing and realizing at the end of it that you understood everything (on the surface level) and nothing on the more existential level. It's good, the best case for a record that should have a lasting hold over you.
There are perilous matters and inscrutable turns around every corner of the record that are as pleasantly dense and exploratory as anything von Bohlen or longtime drummer Dan Didier have done with any of their various past projects (The Promise Ring/Vermont) and those bands each should have come along with their own specific decoder rings as well, though the material these days is of a much thicker, more quality stock. They've easily written their finest record to date and it may be a result of the band - filled out by guitarist Dan Hinz and bassist Justin Klug - now existing as a group that's put together some history. They're all four now able to act as one and it's all very obvious, though this isn't even the band's first classic. The 2006 record We, The Vehicles earned that distinction and yet Heresy builds spectacularly on that record's keen sparkles and sharp, yet aloof tension. Maritime asks more of us on this day than they asked of us the day before and all of this leads to them asking more of themselves, which gets cyclical in a hurry.
*The Daytrotter interview:*
*I usually hate these questions, but I think there could be something interesting this time. Can you give us some background on the new album's title?*
Dan Didier: Oh boy. You know, this was by far the hardest album title to choose. We went back and forth and back and forth with different ideas. Heresy and the Hotel Choir came from All the Maids in the Hotel Choir and about a week of trying to change it around so we could all agree on something. In the past, the album titles came really easy and early on in the process, but for some reason this wasn't the case.
*Do you guys round up all the band babies for play dates or are the different ages not conducive to that?*
DD: No, they all get together sometimes. Mostly for birthday parties and potlucks. We look after each others kids when we can. It's nice because we are all in the same boat so we can trust each other because we know that we all have experience in raising kids. By we I mean Justin, Davey, and I. Hinz has no heir. As of yet.
*Not to undermine anything that happened before, but is there a feeling amongst you guys that these last two records have you making the best music of your lives? Or is that not a way you look at your career?*
DD: I can't speak for the rest of the guys, but yes. That being said, I could say that about the last two records at any point in my "career". If I wasn't doing the records that I want to make I wouldn't be doing this. More specifically though, I feel Heresy is truly my favorite. Not
because it's the new one and it's the freshest, but because of how we created the record and the songs that came about from that process. I loved the way we wrote these. I guess, as I type this, I am finally realizing how important writing all together in a room is. It's been a long time since that was the case. Very Emergency. That was the lat one I remember writing as a full band in a practice space. Every record after that was written through the use of a computer. Now, I am not
saying we didn't use a computer to write parts of Heresy, but we didn't START there. We started by butting heads, having lengthy conversations, etc.
*Now, every day you came into that clean studio in Milwaukee where you recorded this record, they'd replenished the Twizzlers? Is that accurate?*
DD: Well, sort of. They had LOADS and LOADS of candy. They didn't expect that any four humans (well, FIVE, with Stuart) could go through it so fast, so they ended up having to replenish some of the candy at some point. I did love having an espresso machine on site, that's for sure. Oh, yeah, and Guitar Hero.
*This JEW tour should be a pretty good thing…What band from way back have you stayed in contact with…how far back do you and JEW go back.*
Davey von Bohlen: We go back with JEW about 10 years. Christie Front Drive suggested we meet them, and Jim Adkins came to a TPR show in Phoenix with Texas is the Reason. After Texas broke up, soon so did CFD, and we were left in need of touring friends. At that time, it felt like there were about 10 bands total west of Milwaukee. Jimmy Eat World became that band for a long time, and they are obviously a great band and certainly great people. They are probably the furthest back we still keep in touch with. Chris Daly from TITR was in Jets to Brazil and played briefly in Jason Gnewikow's (TPR) new band House and Parish. A case could be made for him too. As we get older, it's more on an individual level, so each person has their own friends from way back; whether or not they have a new band or whatever.
*Who's your money on in the MLB playoffs?*
DVB: There's very little likeable in the playoffs for me. Hate NYC, Boston and Cleveland…not a huge fan of "new" teams like Colorado and Arizona…Cubs and Phillies are out, and it would be too much to actually care how LA Angels do. I guess Boston, since they are the Yankees'
natural enemy, though they aren't very different from the big money teams buying seasons.
*Does the chorus of "For Science fiction examinations of parts of the Bible?*
DVB: I don't really see it as an intelligent song, as much as an angry one. Certainly doesn't examine anything.
*Are your kids still calling you a "rapscallion" or have they moved on?*
DVB: Scallywag was their thing, but mostly they call me "lazy wings", after Harold the Helicopter from Thomas the Train.
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