Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The way that Jeremy Faulkner makes it sound is that he's more than a man without a country. He's a man without a country, even in the country, away from it all, where the troubles are much further from doors and windows. There was a story in the New York Times today about the possible distinction of Druid Heights - an enclave of counterculture/hippie types who went off into the Muir Woods to live decades and decades ago - as a recognized place on the National Registry of Historic Places. It's a bohemia that was originally conceptualized by the philosopher Alan Watts and it became a place where the disenfranchised and otherwise spent time daytripping and tripping to, feeling that they were able to get away from all the cumbrances of modern society, out there amongst the awe-inspiring trees. It was a place where they constructed buildings and proudly made none of them up to code. They constructed all kinds of hot tubs and it was in one of those hot tubs that Watts expired in. It sounds as if it was a different place from the one it is now, but only people those living there still are just old men and women. It changes the feel of a place, even if they, as people, are the same as they ever were.
It made me wonder what Faulkner and his wife, Becky Dawson, of the Portland band Ah Holly Fam'ly would have thought of such a place then and how they would have considered a place now. There are suggestions in their songs that they aren't keen to the ways in which things happen, the directions in which everyone and everywhere is traveling. They're watching a lot of it and they're feeling like they're going to vomit. Unlike some of the more idealistic, and perhaps, hopeful folky bands out there, they don't pretend to believe that there's anywhere idyllic out there. There's no place that anyone can really escape to any more, where they'll maximize their true happiness and they won't have to put up with everyone else's bullshit. We all know how much bullshit most people spew out into the atmosphere every goddamn day. It's enough to choke on, recover from and then choke on a second time. Faulkner sings, "This was a beautiful country once/Has this whole world gone crazy?" It feels like there's just no getting away from it, even taking yourself completely off the grid, going where the mailman can't find you, where only the mosquitoes know you're there.
Ah Holly Fam'ly tales seem to come from someone who is constantly marveling that we haven't all just destroyed everything and all of us yet. Faulkner takes such a chill approach to the fears at hand. He can't relax and yet he always sounds like he's relaxing harder than anyone else has ever relaxed before. There are people who can't seem to trust other people for the life of them, unable to think of them as people, but rather as threats. One such man goes off to live in the country - not capable of calming himself down - and all of the natives look at him like "the shadow on the neighborhood watch sign" and he doesn't understand the worry or the cruelty, singing, "Believe it or not, these shifting eyes trickle tears too." There's only so much a man can take, but Ah Holly Fam'ly still sound like those folks who are going to enjoy watching it all fall around them as they "make love like there's a war on" because, as they say, it "must be raining blood somewhere."