Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Being in the right place at the right time. It's a dreamy thought, but the phrase is most notably flipped on its head to convey something bad and unwanted, oftentimes even undeserved. It's usually being in the wrong place at the wrong time that worries us the most. The most frightening aspect is the randomness, the vague or absent markings that are going to signify to us, to blare a piercing bullhorn sound in our ears when we're stepping foot into those zones where bad things have a mathematically higher percentage of occurring for no relative reason. It's not you, just what you've gotten yourself into, an unreasonable dilemma to have to swallow sometimes.
Nik Freitas, the unassuming Californian whom you'd peg - on sight alone - as a bellhop, mechanic or short order cook but never such a crafty songwriter, has not had to worry too hard about anything but the right places and the right times in his career and even the lyrics that he winds his 60s-era pop nuggets around portray more of those crisp mornings full of opportunity and the kind of keen, golden shine. His music is an elixir that needs no sugar to take it down the hatch, to spread out like spilled milk and a burst vein's contents as quickly as if the body were tilted on the downside part of a hill. It's good for what ails you, for what ails all of us, it seems. He is of the mind to think that any second, any moment is potentially a memory worth saving - or it could be. Time is made up of all the various ingredients that it takes to pull such a thing off and the only ones who mess us the recipes are the people who touch them, tainting the ingredients and tripping, falling down on the eggs on the sidewalk in front of the house. Day ruined and everything's a mess.
Freitas holds out for something on the more subtle side of the happy ending, maybe more of the tolerably melancholy ending. He seems to envision a world where every dog has its day a couple two or three times a week, there's a steady run of 72-degree-temperature days, the spreads on the nightly dinner tables are bountiful, people are buying and eating locally, we're talking farmer's markets and well-manicured lawns, chipper children on swings and slides, a healthy rosiness and glow to cheeks, and some honest confidence that all could be all right. It's that word of hope that's being tossed around so precipitously these days, it's what's been caught in the nostrils and in between the blinks. It seems like Freitas has that hope in him and it's been good to him. It's treated him well. He believes in the hearts of men and women.
He says so himself, when he sings, "To the credit of man/He does a lot of things/The best he can," and that college try should be commended, he thinks. People get in over their heads, or they lose them and it turns their sights sour. There's not a lot of corrective action that can be done when those hooks have set in and begun to tug. He writes of a fictitious world where all of the "locks would be irrelevant" and that sounds like either a great or a terrible place to live. It really all comes down to the residents of that somewhere. If Freitas, one of the members of Conor Oberst's Mexican vacationing/working Mystic Valley Band of brothers, were the governing body of that neighborhood, breathe easy. It would be a chill party. There would be nightly happy hours, once everyone wiped the dirt and grime from their hands and put on a clean shirt. He wrote a song that could be the ironic theme song of this country's financial blackout. Another black Monday today and we should be turning "All The Way Down" up loud and really thinking about someone still wanting to have his face on the money we make. It's a courteous reminder that people get taken hostage by the unnatural firmaments or just the pretty things (always worse) and that's when men go bad. It's when the right places and the stuff of treasured memory - the bulk of what Freitas writes about - can't be had or can't be found.